Many entry-level jobs are customer service jobs. They involve working directly with customers each and every day. The pay is generally low, hours vary and a lot of those hours are spent working while friends and family are playing.
Many service jobs are filled by young people, either in high school or putting themselves through university or college. Some choose to make a career in the retail, accommodation or food and beverage sector, but for many, it is a stepping stone on the way to other things.
My first job was as a food & beverage server at a pizza restaurant. My training consisted of learning the menu, where the beer and wine fridge was, how to make the salads and hot take the order and where to put it so the cooks could prepare the meal. In other words, the “how” behind the job. Service training simply involved “be friendly and be sure to ask if their food is good.” I was not taught what friendly “looked” like or how to professionally handle an irate or difficult customer.
Fortunately, my idea of friendly was similar to the owner’s idea of friendly so I did well in that regard. But that was not necessarily true for everyone. I’m sure we’ve all had servers who come across as slightly cold or some who are overly friendly. There are many personality types out there and it’s important that we clearly outline our service expectations. What should the first greeting look like and sound like? How soon should it happen once a customer has entered our business? How often should offers of assistance or quality checks be conducted? These need to be outlined so that employees can be trained to a specific service standard.
Communication and conflict management training need to be a part of the training process. Learning to recognize the different personality or communication styles of our customers helps to provide personalized customer service and can reduce the number of negative situations that arise. Some people seem to instinctively know how to read others. They know what to say at the right time, but those people are in the minority, especially if we are talking about young workers.
Knowing how to deal with conflict is an essential skill for customer service jobs. Throughout my entire career, I have found that by far the majority of customers were easy and pleasant to interact with, but like anyone else who has worked in front-line customer service job, I have stories of “that” customer. And they are out there. We need to provide our employees the tools they need to handle those situations and also let them know when they should ask for help, and that it is perfectly ok to do so.
Customer service jobs are demanding. Yes, sometimes the employees are only with you for a short time, but while they are with you, be sure to provide them with the training they need to put your business in the best possible light.