I’ve never worked in retail before. I’ve not experienced working in a shop, dealing with the general public, working the tills, seeing different faces all the time. My job is very different, you work with a group of children, day in, day out. You help them to the best of your ability, you build relationships with them and their parents, at the end of the year, you receive lovely cards with extremely kind messages from both the children and the parents, sometimes gifts and you feel overwhelmed by the love that you were lucky enough to receive. People thanking you for doing your job.
Retail isn’t like that. Retail is a very different type of beast. And that’s only something that I learnt once I met my husband. My husband travels around the country, delivering training and providing further professional development to people in optics. He loves his job. He loves the travelling, going to new places, meeting new people, seeing people benefit from the help that he gives. But for years, he worked in a testing room – day in, day out, meeting patients, giving them the best service that he possibly could.
He talks about his work a lot to me and I like hearing about a world that I’ve never experienced before. One of the training sessions that he delivers to people is about communication with patients. In these sessions he talks about how it doesn’t matter what time of day it, whether it’s first thing in the morning, you’re feeling tired (you’re not a morning person, or you’re feeling under the weather, or you’ve had an argument with someone at home); or 15 minutes before closing time (you can’t wait to get home, you’ve got things to do, you’ve had a really hard day) and a customer has walked through the door to have a quick browse. It could be that you’ve had 3 customers complain on the trot, you’re short staffed and you’ve had the day from hell – the next patient/customer who walks through the door needs to be treated with the same courtesy, energy and enthusiasm as the first patient of the day. They deserve to be treated in such a way that makes them feel valued and makes them want to come back. Basically treat others in the way that you wish to be treated. It’s not hard is it?
It really resonated with me because I work with children. It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling inside – whether I’m angry or tired; whether I’m feeling heartbroken or ecstatic – I always try to treat them with care and consideration. It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling inside – they deserve to be treated fairly.
When he used to work in the testing room, I remember the number of times when patients had been so delighted with how he had helped them, my husband would receive letters and cards of thanks, emails sent to the customer care teams mentioning his care and professionalism. Boxes of chocolates, gifts for our daughters. People just feeling really grateful for the help that he had given them and wanting to show their gratitude somehow.
It always stayed with me, how happy he felt, just being recognised by someone for just doing his job the way it was meant to be done.
Obviously, before I met my husband, when I was out and about I would always recognise good service when I saw it. The people who go above and beyond to help you, and do it with a smile. It occurred to me that we are so quick to complain when things aren’t right, when we aren’t happy with the service that we have received. Why aren’t we equally as quick to thank people and give recognition to those who have done their job well? I suppose people do that in restaurants – the size of the tip that you leave is one way of showing thanks. Whilst shopping, I’ve now started approaching managers to let them know about members of staff who have been really helpful and courteous, I’ve started tweeting to publicly thank and show recognition for those who have been incredibly helpful.
Today there was an incident in a bookshop where I was served by an incredibly joyful, enthusiastic person, who knew their stuff and made time specifically to help me even though she was really busy with other customers. I thanked her, then spoke to her manager about what a delight that particular member of staff had been. I know this sounds incredibly corny but the manager became really emotional and thanked me for my feedback! She explained how refreshing it was to hear positive feedback because usually people only approached her for complaints. I could see the relief and happiness written all over her face, and I felt really emotional too. Which is what inspired me to write this blog. People shouldn’t only ever hear what they are doing things wrong. That is not the way we should be. We absolutely have to make the time to let people know when they have done the right things, when they got it right!
I don’t flourish in an environment where my faults are picked at and exposed all the time, give me praise and tell me what I’m doing well and I’ll work even harder and better for you. Children are the same. So why don’t we adopt that approach to all aspects of life? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t complain when things are wrong. What I believe is that the same amount of energy should be put into acknowledging people when they have done their job well.