It has been three months since I lost my last job. I have been sending out applications and resumes, going to interviews and reading rejection letters for 2 months and 3 weeks.
It seems like it’s been years since I did the ol’ daily commute, years since I put on my business face and put in a good day’s work as that nameless, faceless person you talk to on the phone when your cellphone stops working. Years since I had a complete stranger tell me I made their day or asked to speak to my supervisor to tell them what a great job I’m doing.
But it seems like just yesterday that I would be sitting outside my office building, shaking with anxiety about going in and facing the people I worked for. Just yesterday when I would wonder, when called to my supervisor’s desk, what I forgot to do this time, what I was doing or not doing to maintain the quality metrics that were carved in stone, somewhere. These anxiety attacks, I believe, came from micromanagement and seemingly arbitrary rules and regulation that were enforced or not, depending on who was in charge that day.
I’ve worked as a customer service rep, in one fashion or another, since I was 18. Waitress? Lousy…couldn’t carry more than two plates at a time, but I was always cheerful, quick, and mindful of the customers’ needs. Secretary in a greasy machine shop? The customers were usually old farmers who barely said a word to me. But I could always wow them when they wanted to buy welding rod. I could, with one hand, grab exactly 5 lbs of welding rod in one fell swoop…even my boss was impressed. Bank teller? Some of the customers were nasty, some were extremely polite, some were dirty and smelly, and some thought that nothing of theirs had any kind of odor, whatsover, if you get my drift. But I was always quick, accurate, and treated them all kindly.
When I was managing a convenience store, I met a man who was the CEO of a large bird seed company who had stopped to visit with the owners of the store, who were friends of his from way back, on a spur of the moment. I called them at their home, about 50 miles away, and while we waited for them to come to the store, Mr Bird Seed and I visited about how he got started in his line of work, and how well it was doing now. He said he always had this philosophy: ” The Customer Signs My Paycheck”. He looked at his work and his business from the customer’s perspective, and always kept in mind that for every positive reaction from a customer, there were at least 12 customers who are not happy and will not hesitate to tell someone about it. Knowing an unsatisfied customer would not be willing to sign a paycheck for someone who provided less than excellent service kept him on his game and kept him acutely aware what he needed to do to insure his paycheck was a reflection of his quality of work.
That was nearly 20 years ago. I have made his philosophy my own: ” The Customer Signs My Paycheck”. I have been a phone customer service representative for several different companies since then, and I have always taken pride in knowing that a calm, respectful voice and a polite cheerfulness goes a long way when satisfying a customer. That’s not to say I haven’t had my moments where, if I could have reached through the phone and slapped the customer silly, I would have done it gladly. My buttons have been pushed, and there have been times when I reacted with a knee jerk response that I had to apologize for. But I have always felt I needed to do my utmost best to help a customer, even in the times where there was no possible way to satisfy them.
I don’t want to be a cookie cutter robotic customer service representative. You know the type, the ones who sound as if (and probably are) reading from a script and show as much interest in you,the customer, as they would in fly buzzing in the room. I don’t want to work for a company whose product I can’t believe in and endorse. I want my customers to know yes, they are actually speaking to a live person, a live person who cares how the customer is doing. A customer who ends the call with a heartfelt ‘thank you!’ and a smile in his or her voice. A customer who would recommend my place of business to everyone.
A customer who would be more than happy to sign my paycheck .