customer service

[Image via emilymcdowelldraws on etsy]

Last week marked one full year since I finished my old job so I would have more time for my music studio to make a living teaching piano. We have both learned a lot this year, and I am overwhelmed with thankfulness that the life I had turned into the life I have now.

I worked at a bank for three years, and somehow I think I’ve blocked out most of my bad customer service memories. It was especially amusing when people tried to lecture me about bank policies, as if they were training me or I could change anything about it. Word to the wise: in almost any business, that first person behind the counter has 0% power and deals with 90% of the complaints. It’s a grating position to be in. I loved many of the customers I worked with, but it’s hard to deal with difficult people when you can’t enforce healthy conversational boundaries. The negative interaction that tops them all came inside my first six months there. It began when a customer came in flustered and crying. In addition to expecting me to approve of some dangerous financial practices, my role became difficult when she explained that she just found out her 30-year-old son in the military was being sent to Afghanistan. She didn’t understand why his Commanding Officer wouldn’t change the orders – or give her the time of day – when she called to complain about it.

I had to say something like “Oh, that’s too bad. That must be frustrating,” when I wanted to say “HELLO?! You can’t make a phone call to get your son out of fulfilling his duty to the country just because you’re mad about it. Nobody wants to send their son to war, but he wasn’t forced to enlist. And, by the way, he’s 30!”

Perhaps because my supervisor was standing right over me, I didn’t mention my own experience in this area: I’m a military wife, my husband was deployed (dangerously so) while we were dating, and I’m working here in the midwest because additional deployment scheduling conflicts meant we moved to Iowa instead of southern California after our wedding. Apparently my lack of pity for her helicopter parenting was evident, and she finally wailed, “Well, what am I saying? It’s not like YOU’VE faced any hard times so you’re probably too optimistic or naive to know what I’m talking about.”  Well… not quite.

I have been thinking the combination of people becoming ruder and standard customer service practices are a bit dehumanizing to the people who work behind cash registers. Self-employment is not quite as easy as it sounds, but I’m grateful for the freedom to do things I’m good at and the flexibility to decide who I work with.

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