I used to work at the Outback, a student bar in the CBD of Hamilton. It wasn’t a dream job, I mean I was bouncing in the ladies’ bathroom so hardly the most glamorous location, but I met some amazing and weird people, some of whom I still know to this day. I was the one who held hair when people threw up, comforted the brokenhearted, got water or orange juice for those who were too drunk, or a shot of raspberry syrup for hiccups (I don’t know why, but it works, honest!). I was the keeper of the hairspray and spray deodorant, the straightener of necklaces and hemlines, and the remover of TP from shoes.
As most of us know, drunk people can be the worst, but sometimes they can be the best! I had one lovely customer who always brought me a Chuppa Chup as a tip and would make a point of stopping by to say hi even if her friends weren’t staying. My colleagues were amazing; the bar staff would keep me fueled with OJ and cover my breaks, the glassies would check in on their rounds, and the other bouncers made a point of looking after me and the other young ladies on my team. They were our big brothers, teaching us self-defence, including us in activities, and ensuring our safety since we were pretty isolated in the loo. It was the perfect job for a uni student, so long as I planned my classes around 5 a.m. finishes on a Thursday and Friday.
Every week, our pay slips would be printed and hung in the staff area for us to collect. These were all stamped with a big red stamp in a nice font that said, “Brought to you by the customers”. That message stuck with me. I’ve been sworn at, I’ve been threatened, and I was thrown up on more than once. No job is perfect and despite these few issues, most nights were a lot of fun and my colleagues and customers made it all worthwhile. I have always remembered that red stamp. Yes, drunk people can make poor choices and react poorly, they throw a fist when they should just shrug and move on – but they paid our wages, they were the reason I had a job in the first place, and they provided entertainment and support. The Outback’s customer service value was clear; without the customers, we don’t exist. It helped us all to remember that when dealing with the drunken antics of inebriated students en masse, and consistently provide considerate and patient service to those who kept us employed.
What are your customer service values? What is the message your team can consistently display to your customers in their own way, helping them to own that message rather than parrot it? What is the lasting impression you are hoping your customers leave your business feeling? Do your team recognise and understand this? Do they connect with it? Are these values they can show while still being themselves in your workplace?
-Jo Stuart, Trainer