I remember one of my first jobs, it was working in a sports store. I was 18 and just out of school. The holiday season was coming. Christmas was only 4 weeks away and our store was going to dramatically increase its trading hours to accommodate the increased foot-traffic. We had already seen a jump in sales over the last few weeks, but it was expected to increase dramatically again.
I had never worked through a Christmas period before, and many of the other employees hadn’t either – our store was only a year old, so there were a lot of new people.
Before our trading hours increased, our manager called a staff meeting. I remember it vividly still, despite it being many years ago. The manager’s number one goal for the meeting was drumming into us the service he expected us to give to the customers.
He began by stating that it will get crazy, people will be rushing and being quite forceful getting what they want. Expect long check out lines, and irritated customers. Most of us were quite young, and he knew from experience that people our age were more prone to snapping when people weren’t treating us right. These days after so many years of experience, I don’t see quite in the same way – I see it as not being able to take the pressure. I guess, I’ve managed to detach my personal side from situations that involve people being unpleasant, and see it just as a means to an ends. But back then, me, like most of the others there, were quite sensitive, and our manager was right in trying to fortify us against the havoc that awaited.
There was one point in his speech that stood out more than the rest of his words. At one point, he was trying to drive home how obnoxious some customers could become, saying that they might even call you names or become very short-fused. He said, “What I want you to do is kill them with kindness. Whatever they try to do, just kill them with kindness.” I could feel a frustration overcome the room, as many of us felt hard-done-by thinking that we just had to stand there and take it (now I realize that his advice was spot-on). One of the guys that worked then almost immediately piped up, he said slightly outraged but slightly in a humorous fashion, “If someone talks to me like that, I’ll get’em in a headlock!” Everyone burst out into laughter, everyone except the manager. He looked at that guy, smiled slightly to acknowledge the humorous side of the comment, but retorted, “No, if a customer acts like that, then you kill them with kindness and report it to me. I will handle the situation from there.” Everyone there got the manager’s point.