Industry Update
Opinion Article17 April 2019

3 Ways to Serve a Customer Even When We’re Not at Our Best

By Steve DiGioia

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As I lay in bed, coughing and sneezing from a cold, dreading even going to the kitchen for a glass of water because of aches and pains from my unseen tormentor, I'm comforted knowing, "boy, I'm sure glad I don't have to go to work today". But what if I did? How would I be able to serve my customers with these rotten cold symptoms?

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That's the question every service provider must answer on those days when we're not at our best.

Service doesn't end when we're sick or tired. It continues through snowstorms and divorces. It is shared by all who expect to be valued, not for our money but for our humanity.

But humanity can be altered through illness. Our actions differ because of how we feel and where we'd rather be (like back home in bed). Can we really be expected to provide the same level of service to our customers even when sick?

My answer is yes. Not because it's easy to do but because it's what's needed for those seeking our guidance and assistance. We have a job to do and others need us.

Here are the 3 best ways to service a customer even when we're not at our best.

Switch Places with the Customer

Think about how you feel when YOU'RE not at your best and waiting in a long line at the supermarket. Moments seem like hours while your patience wears thin. You just can't move quick enough through the queue.

Then, just as you reach the cashier, you're greeted with a warm sincere smile and a few well-measured words of comfort. Small talk that is not forced or contrived, just genuine.

As items roll past the scanner, you, if even just for a minute, forget about your troubles and enter into a conversation with someone who seems to care about your wellbeing.

You didn't' expect anything but received much. You didn't realize it, but this is just what you needed; a brief break from the thoughts swirling within your head. This provider may also have her own troubles but took the time to interact with you and put her own concerns aside. This is what true service is; doing for others despite our own issues. We are here to serve others, no matter what.

Fallback on Your Professionalism

It's easy to say "be a professional" when times are good. But when times aren't professionalism may take a back seat. But why?

Most people have core beliefs which direct them throughout their day. What are your core beliefs regarding service?

What are the standards and expectations you expect to provide or are willing to accept?

There are many ways to do something and we all know how adaptable service providers must be. But the core professionalism must always be there. This is who we are and who we will be. Nothing can take this away from us, not sickness, not sadness, and not hardship.

I remember being told this as a young boy; "You may not have fancy clothes. They may be old, worn and ill-fitting. But they can always be clean and pressed".

It doesn't take much to retain your core beliefs, even though you aren't at your best.

Ask for Help

Pride gets in the way of service. We have a job to do and dammit, we're gonna do it! Well, that's not always the best action.

The best action sometimes is to ask for help. Help in the form of rest, in comfort from a trusted friend, or advice from a medical practitioner. There are times when we just can't service our customer, or our friends and family for that matter. We don't wear a cape nor have superpowers. We cannot do it all.

Think back to the words said by every airline flight attendant during the preflight instructions. They always tell you, in case of emergency and if the oxygen masks drop down, to place a mask on yourself first THEN assist your co-traveler with theirs.

The reason for this is that, in case of an emergency, you must help yourself first before you can help others. It's no different from customer service providers.

To be our best we must care for the customer, be professional and most importantly, take care of ourselves.

Great service comes naturally to those who put themselves in the "shoes of the customer", stick to their core beliefs of service and professionalism, while taking care of their own self-help - even if we're not at our best.

Steve DiGioia

A customer service trainer, coach, author and speaker, Steve uses his 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry to help companies and their employees improve service, increase morale and provide the experience their customers' desire. Author of "Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift...Even If You're a Bad Waiter" and named an "ICMI Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leader" and a "Top Customer Service Influencer" by CCW Digital, Steve continues his original customer service, leadership and management-based writings on his popular blog.

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