I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to say every “average” American out there has worked in customer service at some point. Whether it’s in a restaurant or call center or hospitality or retail…nearly everyone has worked in a “make them happy, even if they are being stupid” position at some point in their life. Yet, 90% of the population quickly forgets what it’s like to be in that position. They forgot that we really are doing everything in our power to make their life better and we don’t actually hate them…until they become ungrateful jerks.

I’ve worked in customer service since I was 16. I started behind the front desk of a hotel when I was in high school. It was my job to make sure people enjoyed their stay at a franchised hotel in a small Midwestern town. I quickly realized it’s all in how you delivery news…good or bad. I learned “hotel common sense”, found ways to portray myself confidently so guests trusted my words and discovered the value of the back office where I could roll my eyes while cursing at the unreasonably stubborn idiots.

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…my happy place, and the view I wandered outside to take in between bouts of #headdesk moments at the hotel…

Since then I’ve worked behind the front desk of five hotels, helped plan once-in-a-lifetime vacations for my grandparents’ generation, stocked nails + electrical plates in a hardware store while being asked the best way to wire a new house [what?! don’t ask a random retail employee that, we do NOT know!], handled angry customers on Twitter and violently cursed at people while typing out “have a great day” in email responses to their ignorance.

I haven’t done it all, I’m not an expert and I’m sure I still have moments of “bad consumer” attitude while playing the part of a customer but…I think it’s safe to say I have some solid experience in customer facing jobs. Heck, I’ve basically made a career of it and I actually enjoy  what I do. Ultimately, I love to hate people. But why?!

Because some people are absolutely incredible! There are so many complete idiots with not-even-kind-of realistic expectations from other humans…but for every one of those morons there is at least one, if not two, undeniably incredible people who make it all worth it.

…when one person is passive aggressively attacking you for upgrading them from a standard hotel room to a fancy pants two-bedroom condo because they’ll have to walk to the fitness center [oh, the horrors] there is usually another patient, reasonable guest listening behind them, rolling their eyes for you.

…for the couple who literally flipped out at the front desk because they could not check into their room at 9am on the busiest holiday week of the year there will be a family that is incredibly thankful that you were able to hold their luggage + give them access to the locker rooms so they could layer up for a day in the snow…then check-in at the standard time of 4pm.

…for every email you get threatening to “never use your app again” or “tell all my friends how terrible you are” when the user is clearly trying to cheat the system you’ll get a “thank you so much for all your help” response when you barely did anything.

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…the face I’m making on the inside when I’m pleasantly smiling on the outside…

And it’s more than just watching humans be…humans, in their best and worst states, that keeps me coming back to customer service. It’s the moments when I actually get to make a difference in someone’s life. I think this is why I truly love working in the customer facing positions that put me in the line of fire for so many complaints I literally have no control over. While some customers love to verbally abuse people in my position others understand what I’m trying to do and manage to appreciate that!

…I do this for the moments when I can help a Spanish speaking family plan their entire week of activities in the snow…then hear their kids chattering happily after a day on the mountain followed by many thanks from their parents. That family demanded nothing of me, but I spent hours behind the scenes making things happen for them…because of their genuinely grateful reactions.

…or, for that guest who throws down with sarcasm with a stranger behind a fancy front desk better than most people I know in more casual settings…and then manages to maintain our sarcastic stories for a full week. These people keep my job fun, entertaining and are the reason I don’t actually punch the people who deserve a fist in the face.

…and that hostel guest who hesitantly asks for hiking advice then finds a way to trust their skills and comes back grinning ear to ear because they found a trail they fell in love with. I absolutely love giving people the resources + confidence to get out there and just be themselves. Their smiles are really all I need in thanks!

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…what I do between jobs so I don’t actually punch anyone or express my true feelings about their stupidity…

Because I’m around to get yelled at by ungrateful fools I am also in a position to help people have fun, explore and enjoy life. That is why I customer service…for the nice people, for the happy people, for the grateful people.

And trust me, if you start our conversation with an attack I will be understanding + helpful to our face but you better believe I am NOT going out of my way to make your life easier. I’ll do the bare minimum to get you what you need…I will NOT spend extra time planning your transportation, delivering your luggage or bribing the housekeeping department to clean your room faster. You’ve already proven you’re a jerk who thinks I’m less of a human than you, so I’ll do my job, but I will not go above and beyond because you’re clearly incapable of appreciating that. Use simple phrases like “please” and “thank you” without throwing in degrading tones or snark…it’ll get you a LONG way as a human. I promise.


4 Comments

Jacquelyn · February 13, 2016 at 1:04 pm

I love this! Recently found your blog and really enjoy it. Love the new layout too!

    Heidi Kumm · February 15, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks so much! I’m having fun with this new look…but let me know if you run into any navigation snafus! 🙂

Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd · February 15, 2016 at 3:33 pm

LOL, I used to work customer service and had one of those demotivational posters hanging on my wall – “there are no stupid questions, just inquisitive idiots”.

Reminds me of the time several years back when I was flying through Denver after a huge snow storm. Flights were backed up for DAYS and we (along with everyone else) were waiting in line for help rescheduling from an airline rep. No apps back then. The guy in front of us was just ranting and raving at this poor woman. Like she personally caused the giant snowstorm. She just kept repeating the party line: “sorry, there are no hotel rooms left in town – everything is full of stranded travelers. And no, I can’t get you on a flight tomorrow. We’re backed up 2 days. The best you can do is try for standby.”

He yells for a while longer then storms off, and we walk up to her. I could see her mentally resetting and putting on a smile for us. I just told her to take her time, we weren’t going anywhere (ha). Wished her a happy new year (it was right around then) and told her we knew everything was a mess. All we wanted to do was update our standby information for any Bay Area airport (I think we were supposed to fly to SF, but Oakland and San Jose are also close enough that it increases our chances if we’re able to fly to any of them). She ended up finding us a Honeymoon suite at a local hotel and first class seats on the next morning’s first flight to SF. A little empathy can go a long way.

    Heidi Kumm · February 15, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Haha, that’s the best poster ever! It’s true…too true!

    And, yes, exactly your story! She just got berated by a fool and was prepared for round two [or ten]. Everyone is customer service has a few strings to pull…you just need to be a worthy customer to get them pulled! 🙂

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