Customer, Serviced #1

Where?: Australia Post Office, 448 Boundary Street, Spring Hill QLD 4004, Australia.

When?: May 6 2008, 12pm

Who?: Female salesclerk (name to be confirmed)

What?: I made the mistake of visiting the store during the lunchtime rush. The line was fifteen people-deep; the automatic door stayed open due to people standing under the sensor. I’d been uncharacteristically caught without phone credit, and as I was attending a show with a friend that night, I had to recharge to reply to his logistical query.

Cue fifteen solid minutes of queuing. I silently lamented my lack of foresight to bring reading material, though I hadn’t anticipated the store to be this busy. I passed my eyes across crappy pink stationary a dozen times, and attempted – along with everyone else in the store – to block out the moronic blonde yapping on her phone. “Anyway, I’ve gotta go, everyone in the store can hear me, haha.” No shit.

By the time I’m served, I’m understandably a little annoyed. I’m a patient dude, but I’d found Australia Post’s customer service to be rather lacking up until this point. It was as if they’d scheduled their employees’ lunch breaks at the same time every other worker in the suburb was on their half-hour, and attempting to post mail – or buy credit.

I gave a cursory “g’day” to the female salesclerk and requested my service. She complied silently for a moment, before asking – apropos of nothing – how my weekend was. I was taken aback, as the tone in which she asked the question conveyed that she would actually give a shit about my response.

I responded that I’d had a great weekend; I spent Saturday with my parents and brother, and we all went to a concert together. Though, I neglected to mention a largely unfavourable event I attended on Sunday.

She enquired about which band we saw – she didn’t know them – then told me that she was glad that I’d enjoyed my weekend. I politely enquired about hers, and she related some brief details about spending time with her kids.

This exchange took place while she scanned the bPay barcode and waited for the system to produce a serial number for me to enter into Optus’ prepaid system. The line was still fifteen-deep behind me as we shared a friendly moment together within earshot of every other customer.

What’s remarkable about this customer service experience is that the salesclerk turned an unhappy, impatient person into a happy, smiling customer purely by ignoring the outside noise – fifteen equally unhappy, impatient customers – and listening. In an edgeconomy, listen + respect x trust = loyalty and partnership.

Yes, this was just one salesclerk putting themselves second and the customer first. I’ll admit, it’s a step to extrapolate one man purchasing phone credit at a corner post office to an entire economic model.

But – imagine if every customer was treated with equal respect. Imagine if every customer was listened to. Imagine if every solution was customised to fit each individual need. That’s the future we’re aiming for. If we’re not, we should be.

“The goal of every single interaction should be to upgrade the brand’s value in the eye of the caller and to learn something about how to do better, not to get the caller to just go away.” – Seth Godin discussing telephone customer service, but his message is equally applicable in any related situation.

Result?: I left the store with a smile on my face. Genuinely nice people are difficult to find – I don’t claim to be one, either – which is why it’s disarming and refreshing to encounter them.

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