There is one, and only one good thing about my trip to my local Jewel/Osco yesterday. I went for three items–my prescription, some masking tape, and something to grab for breakfast. I walked out of the store 0 for 3. But I did get one positive thing out of it, which was a heightened awareness for what a difference good customer service can make.
The first thing I went for was to pick up a prescription. Since I had called it in two days earlier, and it was only 7:30am, this should have been a breeze. Two minutes, tops. But there was just one pharmacist (note: I think it was a pharmacist. Or is that like libraries, where people always think whoever is behind the desk is the librarian?) and he was very intent on sorting through some papers. The phone was ringing, and he was ignoring it. He also ignored me…and ignored me…and ignored me. He answered the phone; he picked up another caller who was waiting, he went back to looking at his papers….and he ignored me some more.
That in itself isn’t interesting to anyone but me. The thing is, I couldn’t help noticing how my mood shifted in the course of standing there. I had begun feeling bright, happy, optimistic–my day was on its way, and starting out with blue skies. But the longer I stood, ignored, the more I could feel my mood sinking. I began to feel very small, and went from happy to patient to annoyed to angry, and finally I walked away. If I were a cartoon character, there would have been a storm cloud over my head.
I then went in search of masking tape. I encountered two staff members busily stocking shelves, who both ignored the way I was looking down each aisle. I finally found where the masking tape belonged…and the rack was empty, along with several nearby racks.
So I went to go find something to grab to eat, but I knew in this case that I might come up empty because the store had only reopened on Monday morning after a busy Sunday. The bakery might not have anything ready to go. Besides, I was already feeling so put out and unhappy that nothing looked good to me. So I walked out.
The thing is, all it would have taken at any point was for someone who worked there to bother to acknowledge my existence. If the pharmacist had turned his head for one second and said, “Sorry to keep you waiting. I’ll be with you soon,” I would have been happy to wait longer. I’d have sympathized with him when he finally came and helped me. I have worked at a busy desk many times, and I know how swamped you can get. But he didn’t take that moment to make me feel like I mattered.
The masking tape was equally insignificant. Places run out of things–I understand that. I would have left the store disappointed but not angry if one of the people busy stocking shelves had asked me if I needed help finding something. And then I would have probably wandered over to the bakery and picked out something to eat and bought it, and left the Jewel feeling good about my experience.
So the one good thing about my 0-3 trip to the Jewel on Monday morning was the realization that how we treat our patrons matters more than anything. There are always going to be times when we can’t satisfy their demands. If a patron goes to the library after seeing The Hunger Games movie right after it opens and wants to check out Catching Fire, we are probably not going to be able to help them no matter how many copies we buy. But if we treat them nicely, it will make all the difference in the way they feel when they walk back out the door. So, no matter how fed up and pressured I might feel at the desk, I am going to stop rushing for a second, greet the patron who is waiting for me, and let them know that I see them, and I am going to help them just as soon as I can. It will make both of us feel better.