By Olivia Rooney
Tis the season to go shopping, and out for Christmas do’s and Christmas drinks, and more shopping, and then there are the sales, and the January menu deals. This is one of the busiest times of year for all those who work in the customer service industry, and from four years experience within the industry, it really brings out the best and worst in people. This is the reason why everyone should do some time in the game; the service game.
Firstly, service and retail are some of the most difficult jobs a person can do. Some may think it is ‘easy’ and that ‘it’s not rocket science’. Whilst some of this is true to a degree, it is too simplistic a definition for any job – yes any job. Whilst yes, anyone really can hang a top on a hanger or polish cutlery, not everyone can set a table correctly or create an enticing shop display. What may sound like simple skills require attention to detail and creativity, these are the things that someone who says ‘anyone can do this job’ notices straight away (I’ve personally witnessed this a number of times), and therefore it is a certain type of person who is required for such roles. Similarly, not everyone can pour the perfect pint, make a cocktail, or get that difference between a latte and a flat white quite right. These jobs take training and skill just as a job in an office or client setting also do. The same can be reversed, not everyone could sit at a desk in an accountant’s office all day and work out percentages and tax for example – I know I couldn’t. Thus, we shouldn’t downgrade anyone based on their job or think them smarter or more stupid than the next person, especially if you have no experience to back you up.
Therefore, I believe everyone should do at least some time in the service and hospitality industry in their lives. Even if only for a short time, this industry teaches you useful life skills as well as giving you an insight into people’s behaviour. You get to see a wide range of people up close. I have met doctors, writers, artists, scientists, teachers and politicians to name but a few. You learn not to judge a book by its cover; I have had some of the very best conversations with customers who to look at I probably wouldn’t have spoken to if I hadn’t been serving them (we all do this!). As a result of this I learned that the pub I used to work in was the place some American soldiers were drinking in when they got the call to head for what we know today as D-Day. I would never have known this incredible information without talking to the grumpy looking old man grumbling into his Guinness in the corner of the bar. Similarly, people who you think to look at are lovely, well dressed and welcoming may be cold, unnecessarily unkind as well as downright insulting. For example, there was an instance when a supposed thoroughly well educated gentleman (to look at) asked me “are you stupid?” when I worked out a maths issue incorrectly without the use of a calculator. “No I am not stupid, I am not the best with numbers and this restaurant is heaving on a Saturday in December, you horrible man!” is what you want to say, but unfortunately sometimes you have to keep your professional cool even when something like this happens, otherwise you could face a complaint – the customer is always right, even when they are not, and this is what I think to be the most difficult part of working in the industry.
However, there is light at the end of the sales and dirty plate filled tunnel. What the above examples teach you when you’ve worked in service is extreme patience, professionalism in difficult situations, as well as an approachable and compassionate attitude with people. Sometimes you might be the only person to have a conversation with a customer all day, or you may be just someone to talk to when someone is having a bad day and this is a responsibility only suited to a particular type of person. You have to be mindful of people and their situations, even that horrible so-and-so who called me stupid, he may have been going through something terrible I would never know about and so you must develop a thick skin: that’s not to say if someone is completely out of order you don’t stick up for yourself, it is the fine line in between which you must learn to read. The only way you can figure these things out is to work in customer service for some time. You will quickly learn if you are suited or not – trust me!
Ultimately, whilst these kinds of jobs can be difficult at times, particularly at the weekend when other friends are out partying, they are worth it in the end. The personal skills you develop will set you up for life. You will also learn a plethora of practical skills, for example I make a damn good Irish coffee, and for that I am eternally grateful!
Featured Image; Getty Via The Mirror