A discussion on customer service
Bruno Rios After the first few months working at Indigo I started to have that impression that it is like a summer camp: I know some folks are there for a long time, and are not planning to leave, but there’s this constant feeling to some (at least to me) that you meet many people, have a lot of fun and, after a while, people just “go home”, to do something else... undoubtedly a great experience working with all these nice people!
Patrick McEvoy-Halston Bookselling used to be a career. It might go back to this at some point. Regardless, though, of whether you're selling books, tech, lifestyle, there are encounters you have that end up profoundly resonant in both yourself and the person you're in conversation with and advising. As a culture, I think we sense this sometimes about retail... that what went on veered towards a professional encounter as profound to you as a useful visit to a doctor, but we're still at a stage where we've got to shelve that accurate impression to make a whole industry of workers seem like they're involved in something of little actual worth... they exist as attendants to people who do something of actual worth: hence, this sense of it as not-serious... a playground for those who visit for a spell; a potential longterm grind for those "stuck" there... or who seem to remain there for some reason. It's part of creating a class of victims whose voices aren't uncovered for a generation. I actually think this #metoo movement, this moment where voices we had decided weren't worth hearing are now being heard, will play into a redemption of people who work "service." Hence articles now about what it has been like for forever to work as a Starbucks barista, where no one would come to your defence if you were overtly harassed/assaulted by customers: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/.../sexu.../article36988317/
For being in the job you were in, you had earned it. Undertake something serious, and we'll respect you... respect goes to a different class of people. That has been our society. Against facts, it has been our society.
posted by someone who hopes... who knows, that some people "who don't leave" (Lloyd? Elizabeth? Guy? Karen? Lorna?) are in it to help straighten it out to be closer to the form it might become, by reacquainting people over and over again with the fact that there is real professionalism that goes on here. And genius.
Claire Harris Retail therapy - a phrase used to describe mostly female behaviour when spending on something frivolous equals happiness. I think of many of the experiences I have had through working at the store, which is also my first real retail job, yes, as Bruno says, there are those who think it will be fun to work in a bookstore and who enjoy a couple of seasons before picking up their real career, but there are as Patrick says, the genuinely serious professionals whose knowledge and experience is exceptional as is their willingness to share it with customers and colleagues alike. There are the rest of us, still learning and building that knowledge, but who have to be counsellors, teachers, researchers, guides, using specialist knowledge of subjects, imagination, be tactiticians, housekeepers and yet still be smiley, friendly approachable and eager to help.
It is a sad fact that although we have mopped up tears, made suggestions, been asked for advice, found a perfect item, made people laugh, feel good, etc, we are still seen as something less, "why are you working here, you could be doing so much more" is something I get asked regularly, so maybe I should be saying back "what is wrong with my choice of job? I get to use a wide range of skills every day, in a fast paced, constantly changing environment with extremely talented people I highly respect, value and care for, to address your needs successfully, therefore ensuring you invest your time/money wisely and so you will return to a place that made you feel you were important. What job could I do that would give me all that?" Then maybe change might happen.
Of course, business leaders could significantly change the idea that we are customer angst dumping ground skivvies, by investing in professional training, pay, benefits, bonuses, full time jobs etc and promoting the job we do. After all, no retail workers equals no groceries, no booze, no books, no clothes, no cars, no shoes and no profits.
Perhaps our job titles should be retail therapists!
Patrick McEvoy-Halston For all the talk about robots taking over jobs... if this is our concern, the redemption of human life, then perhaps fair value will once again be given those who do what no robot or collective information bank can ably do: offer an encounter with someone who sees you for who you are... guesses at what you're really looking for, even as you hadn't yet articulated it, and doesn't judge negatively but finds something to match (if not a remedy, an acknowledgement that there is worth in your desires and interests). If we accord that if you work retail you're gifted at doing that... seeing and reading people acutely, and not dismissing them for what you see but working with it, then you're lucky to be accorded worthy to be aboard.
Erica Strange I'm going to ding in and say.. thanks Denerds Cruz aka camera for doing all these goodbye posters... I agree with all the above.. I do love Bruno Rios analogy... and love both Claire Harris and Patrick McEvoy-Halstonpoint on things... this is why I love wking with you guys.. because I value your ideas and perspective xo
Denerds Cruz Gianfranco respectfully declines the farewell board but farewell wishes is personally accepted.
Bruno Rios Hey, guys, I hope I was not misinterpreted. And if I sounded disrespectful in any way, my sincere apologies. I believe I used a poor analogy, once what I meant was exactly the opposite of affirming that I see working at Indigo as a disposable or transient experience. I am very emotional and when I referred to the “summer camp” thing, it was in the sense that many of us go to this place where we live a one of a kind experience, with amazing people, and it is just too sad when we see many of these friends “going home”. Some that we possibly will never see again. My time at Indigo, as short as it could had been, was very special to me. I felt proud and very happy going to work everyday and I think it was a great start for my Canadian adventure. I will always keep it very close to my heart.
On the other hand, I am very glad about opening the discussion on the importance of service in general, respect and personal connections. I’ve been working in customer service, in many different ends, for the past 15 years and what I am doing in my current job, at the hotel, is nothing but a variation of any retail position. Personal connections are irreplaceable and I am all about this exchange of trying to make people happy and getting this energy back. And not only with the customers, but with my colleagues as well.
Unfortunately, it is true that many customers do not appreciate it. Just as many companies, many managers and many retail professionals too. This builds a vicious circle where the companies offer unbearable wages and flood the market with seasonal and part time positions; people not really interested in the job fill these positions with lack of effort and with transient spirit, because they cannot see any future or security on it; and customers do not acknowledge the professionals, thinking that they are just a bunch of “whatevers”.
But I believe that this lack of respect, consideration or “importance” is the fatal destiny the entire service industry. Bus drivers, servers, cleaners, sales people, events people, hosts, cashiers... it is sad how the world sees the most important product: the experience. Good service, provided by a knowledgeable professional, is rare, priceless and completely underestimated. The bright side of it is that the times when our work is appreciated, when we are able to truly connect to someone, to make an experience special, it seems just right, doing what we are doing here.
Just love to all of you, Indigo friends! ❤️
Claire Harris No you did not sound disrespectful, your post triggered a lot of thought and a good review of customers/customer service. Glad you are lovingbyour new role x