The Problematic 3%

January 30th, 2012 | Rachel

Ok, real talk.

I’m a pretty easy going person.  I stay cool under pressure (too cool, I’ve heard), and I’m never in a rush.  I’m open-minded and reasonably patient.  I also like (or am neutral about) almost everyone.  In fact, if I had to quantify it, I’d say I like about 97% of the people I meet.

I credit Match-dating for greatly enhancing my interpersonal skills.  I remember moving to New York City after graduating from law school and being really frustrated with my inability to talk to other people.  As my college boyfriend could attest, I was very guarded throughout my early-adulthood.  I think I sat mute through the first two or three dates before I finally opened my mouth.  I could speak freely only with people who had known me long enough to earn a key into my inner sanctum.

Anyway, something about being thrown into one-on-one social situations with complete strangers and having to engage them for an hour or two while simultaneously revealing enough of myself to determine any substantive compatibility revolutionized my social abilities.  No joke.  Suddenly, I was meeting people everywhere I went.

It wasn’t just limited to dates.  My entire social network grew exponentially as I made myself more open to other people.  If you’ve ever been to one of my parties, then you’ve seen how my “group” of friends is more like a spiderweb that branches out in a lot of different directions and is constantly growing.

So… yeah.  People.  I like almost all of them.  At the Three Green Ducks, I would often come to the defense of particularly ornery customers that everyone else hated but that I found interesting.

The problem is with the people I don’t like.  For 97% of the population, I can sincerely respect them as fellow human beings and find something to appreciate.  For the remaining 3%, however, it is like a switch goes off in either my head or my heart and I absolutely can’t stand them.  I don’t want to talk to them.  I don’t want to help them.  I don’t even want to look at them.  My gut reaction is to shut them down and get them out of my life as fast as possible.

This is not a good thing if I am going to be a part of the customer service industry.

After working at the Three Green Ducks for about five months and having a handful of negative interactions with customers who were truly horrible people but, alas, were still customers, I had a flash of personal enlightenment.

I realized I needed to turn my ego down a few notches and get over myself.  Part of the reason I quickly jump to detesting someone is my ego feels threatened and my personal defense mechanism springs into action.  Unfortunately, those defense shields don’t leave room for compromise or any higher cause, such as making a sale or the business’s reputation for customer service.

I resolved to not take it personally the next time someone came in with a bad attitude that historically would have rubbed me the wrong way.  I noticed one of my co-oworkers was a particularly good example of how to handle problematic customers.  The ruder they were, the sweeter she would be.

This turned out to be a good conscious exercise.  Instead of unintentionally growing angry to the point I snapped, I intentionally turned on my biggest smile and sweetest voice.  The customer’s bad attitude became fuel for my own patience and positivity.  And it was a challenge, which is always fun.

Toward the end of my time with the Three Green Ducks, I mentally started pretending like the bakery was my own bakery and it was my personal and professional reputation on the line.  This made it a lot easier to remember and exercise principles of good customer service.

When it all boils down, the entire dessert-baking industry exists to bring people happiness and pleasure.  People purchase baked desserts to celebrate special occasions, to express love or other positive feelings, or to simply enjoy the moment.  There’s really no point in introducing any negativity into the transaction, and if a customer comes in with a bad attitude, then it is my job as a vendor and customer service agent to make sure they have a positive experience (if it is possible).

Even outside of the business, I hope to be more open and patient with that 3% of people.  Seeing as how I am starting from scratch in building my California network, I will have plenty of opportunities to practice.

One Response to “The Problematic 3%”

  1. Randall Griffin says:

    Kinda reminds you of the saying “love your enemies…indoing so it’ll be like pouring hot coals on their head”. B-) It frustrates some peops when they fail to get under other peops’ skin.

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