“I need to speak to someone that can actually help me. You’re just the receptionist, right?”
I can’t even tell you how many times, over the past ten or so years, that potential clients have carelessly spoken these words to me and my fellow phone answering buddies. Over time, my responses have matured; at least I’d like to think that they have. When I first became “just the receptionist” of my family’s business, I was easily offended by the careless and hurtful words that streamed through my trusty work phone. My heartrate would rapidly rise, my natural defensiveness would kick in…and all of my insecurities, surrounding my job description, would seemingly be highlighted. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the years have completely numbed me to the insensitive nature of the general public, but I have learned to value myself within my family’s business and more importantly, to understand my worth.
I understand more and more, that my worth does not lie in the title printed under my name, but in the ways in which I perform my job. There are still days that I revert back to that young, insecure adult…wanting to tell that certain type of customer, “I do so much more than just answer the phone! I’m smart, I really am!” Recently, one of my own told me that I was unprofessional for answering her question of, “How are you doing?” with honesty. Before I could stop myself, I told her, “Don’t ask that question if you’re not ready for a real answer.” Appalled, she proceeded to vehemently explain why she was floored by my “unprofessionalism”.
Why does the general consumer feel that they can say any and everything to their service providers? I was floored that this particular client actually said to me, along the journey that was our conversation, “The customer is always right.” I responded, perhaps out of turn, “You have a responsibility, as a consumer, to treat any business that you’re requesting services from with a certain level of respect. Your consumerism does not grant you a license to be rude.” Since she was already an unreasonable individual, this nugget of truth did not digest easily. Needless to say, the conversation did not end well for either party.
No one is always right…not the customer, not the business, not the employee, not the employer. No earthly being can be right at all times. It’s the individual that actual thinks that they are right all of the time that causes the most stress and discord within any establishment. I acknowledge that I did not handle this disgruntled customer properly…I don’t honestly know if I could ever handle her the exact right way. That being said, I’ve decided that it would be best for someone else, within the company, to manage her needs. I’m responsible for my actions…not my customer’s.
Sometimes, we that regularly work with the general public, feel personally attacked by the attitudes of our clientele. I just want to encourage y’all and say, for the most part, it is not you. That particularly indignant customer of yours is also an equally indignant customer of someone else’s. We need to make a conscious effort, in our customer related services, to rise above the negative noise that we’re receiving through our trusty work phones. Let’s choose to be that bright spot in our businesses. It’s going to be difficult, at times, to accomplish this…but I believe that it is a task worth purposefully tackling.