Service Secret #9: Nobody Told You? (There’d Be Days Like These)

I’m here to tell you, there’s gonna be days like these . . . strange days indeed . . . most peculiar.

As a leader, human resource professional, and Director of Learning & Development, I cannot begin to recount the number of times I have heard the phrase, “Nobody told me?!”

It’s either accompanied by a heightened sense of panic and anxiety or expressed in blatant disregard for regret or accountability.

I became obsessed with ensuring everyone was fully informed of standard expectations, especially those within a service opportunity. This included the element of choice factored into every decision we make, and awareness of pitfalls associated with their ensuing behavior.

Still, the echoes of “Nobody told me?!” linger on . . .

From A Proper Perspective

Perspective is your strongest ally when facing the crossroads of customer service.

Viewing the opportunity through the lens of your customer, guest, client, or patient allows focused intention where it is most useful: on the wants, needs, and desires of others ahead of yours. 

Service is then approached with a sense of gratitude, for both the practical opportunity to assist and for satisfying an internal need to have a positive impact on the lives of others.

Viewed from a perspective of Self, gratitude is removed from the equation.

Service becomes a task, an obligation satisfied in exchange for monetary reward. Your wants, needs, and desires are placed before others, leaving an emotional gap that is prone to blame, denial, and frustration.

I recently found myself entrenched in a strange day, providing ample exposure to the benefits and pitfalls of service behavior through the lens of a most important customer: me.

We were planning to entertain company over the weekend, so as usual, I began my menu prep work a few days earlier . . .

The Customer Never Works

We frequent a local grocery store that offers a fantastic selection of organic products. Hoping for an early start to the day, I went on-line and verified their opening time as 8:30am. Good news.

Walking in through the door, I noticed their official hours of operation were posted as 9:00am – 8:00pm. This early opening was temporary, which accounted for the nearly empty store. Even better.

Quickly gathering my essential goods, I made it to the check-out area to discover a single cashier on duty. This impacted the overall balance of the experience in that a line began to snake back through the grocery aisles.

Whether conscious staffing decision or the result of a call-out, the cashier clearly felt overwhelmed. Her body language and tone were agitated, any semblance of courtesy or kindness masked by an inordinate sense of urgency and panic.

Now, those familiar with this shopping experience understand the choreography at check-out:

Your cart is intended to replace the one next to the cashier, after they load your groceries into the cart already in place. It’s not difficult but can seem confusing to a rookie, much like the drop off/pick up sequence at an elementary school.

Even I screwed it up the first time, when the cashier protected my self-esteem and politely moved the carts into their correct positions.

The customer in front of me wasn’t afforded the same courtesy. The cashier popped up from her seated position and bluntly exclaimed,

“No! You have to let me move this cart into place before you move your cart over here.”

Tall Tim Thoughts

We can hit pause because we’ve seen enough.

The first rule of great service is that the customer never works. Once they have chosen your service or facility, their commitment is fulfilled.

It now becomes the service provider’s responsibility to curate an experience that makes them want to return.

Everything you do must be offered with humility and grace, cultivating a sense of comfort and ease by simplifying each step of the process. Never allow routines and habits to become barriers within your service relationships.

Maybe it was a staffing issue, or perhaps a no-show that day. Judging by the embarrassment displayed by the customer after having been called-out in front of strangers . . . maybe that cashier shouldn’t be in a front-line service position to begin with.

Pop Goes the Capacitor

Having avoided grocery store embarrassment, I made it home and gleefully began preparations for the weekend. It was a beautiful autumn day, so I opened the kitchen window to accent my pleasant mood.

I heard an unusual “pop” from the A/C unit and later realized that while the inside temperature was rising, the unit was not responding.

Don’t ask me why, but my initial thoughts were directed to the unit capacitor and the prospect of replacing it myself. Which is unusual, because with my technical acumen, I might as well have been replacing the flux capacitor in my Delorean.

But I had a vague recollection of someone saying something about somehow fixing a similar issue with their A/C by replacing the capacitor. So, armed with knowledge garnered from three separate YouTube videos, I set out on a quest to locate my appropriate device of capacitance.

First Stop – Big Box

These excursions usually don’t end well for me. Most of the time, I cry silent tears while entering the number of a local service organization in my phone.

Undaunted, my vague recollection had directed me toward Home Depot. I discovered the electrical area, located in a distant galaxy far, far away toward the back of the store. Unable to locate my desired capacitor, I happened upon Emmanuel, a store associate.

Emmanuel broke the news to me gently . . . those were no longer carried as in store products.

He used his mobile device to search the local area for my target item. Ace Hardware in Apopka, Florida, popped up as having a supply on hand. It would be a brutal drive across traffic, but not out of the question.

Emmanuel suggested ordering on-line as a matter of convenience prior to asking if I needed further assistance.

Tall Tim Thoughts

The Art of Service resurrected!

Emmanuel had checked the boxes related to a proper perspective:

His body language and tone were calm, courteous, and polite; his response went beyond a cold “We don’t carry those anymore, try ordering on-line”; he offered one final suggestion prior to asking if I needed additional assistance.

A suggestion for improvement? I had to approach Emmanuel, even though we were the only two people within a visible range, and I was visibly a fish out of water.

Bottom line is that I didn’t have to work . . . Emmanuel was investing the energy on my behalf, even if the result wasn’t successful.

The Official Extra Mile

Recognizing that on-line data is not always the most accurate, I decided to visit our local Ace Hardware prior to departing on a lengthy trip.

Walking into the store, I was immediately gasping for air, lost among the multitude of products and gadgets.

Smitty, an Assistant General Manager, noticed my obvious delirium and offered his assistance. A quick trip across the aisle brought us face-to-face with their inventory of capacitors and a stark reality – they were out of the model I needed.

Without hesitation, Smitty offered to call not one, but two neighboring locations to see if they had my model in stock. He utilized the time spent on hold to ask me questions about the symptoms displayed by the A/C unit, tested my capacitor to confirm it was bad, and educated me on the role a capacitor plays in the overall system.

The second store had what I needed, saving me at least an hour and a half on the road. Smitty had asked my name during introductions, and seamlessly passed it along to the staff, who would have my capacitor waiting for me at the counter.

Tall Tim Thoughts

Belief in the power of the human spirit was confirmed!

Seamless, effortless, and successful are three words I would use to summarize my experience with Smitty.

Although the store was buzzing with activity, I felt his focus directly on me . . . not out of pity, but a genuine desire to assist with my endeavor.

What elevated this interaction was Smitty’s demonstrated initiative to proactively approach me, which could be attributed to his role as a manager . . . and a great growth point to share with Emmanuel.

The Capacity to Succeed

I returned home, with capacitor in hand, and after minimal profanity was able to replace the damaged piece.

Results were not immediate, which nearly sent me spiraling into depression, swearing off future home improvement efforts like a diva abandoning the limelight for good.

Eventually the unit clicked on, the house began to cool, and I indulged in a moment of introspection. Three service providers were faced with the ultimate moment of truth. Two had displayed proper judgement and maintained focus on my needs as their reason for being.

The third? 

Well, I could hear echoes of “Nobody told me I was going to have to cashier . . .”

I’m telling you, make the right choice.

This is Tall Tim and I am At Your Service

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