The affable-looking guy manning the cash register at Wegmans seemed perfectly capable of scanning and bagging my groceries. But something about his outfit that day caught my eye.
It was that bright, yellow ribbon he wore, which proclaimed for all the world to see that he was new. The new guy. The new cashier-in-training.
It’s something I don’t recall seeing anywhere else, though it’s possible I have and just forgot. But seeing this very public sign that he was in training caused an immediate reaction in me: I relaxed. I instantly forgave him anything he might do as he carried out his duties. He was new, and Wegmans wanted me to know that. So I cut him some slack.
After all, who among us hasn’t been new at our jobs at one point? Wouldn’t it have helped us if our first few clients or customers realized we were getting trained, just getting our feet wet, a bit nervous in our new role, and trying extra hard not to screw up?
Back when, I wrote copy that was too saccharine, too florid, too long-winded. And my first few presentations were God awful. I needed practice and coaching. I’m embarrassed just remembering them.
So new service reps in printing and in other industries deserve our patience and our empathy. They have to get used to their company, their sales team, their bosses, their procedures, their schedules, and us, their customers. The same could be said for new sales reps.
What would be so terrible in letting customers know, as Wegmans does, that an employee of yours is in training?
I’m not suggesting this approach would work in every field – I don’t want to know that the pilot in the cockpit is flying his first commercial flight, or the surgeon about to operate on me is breaking in his or her medical instruments for the first time.
But letting your customers know that they’re working with a new rep can create empathy and understanding. Tell us, “Hey, we’re new, have mercy!” so we automatically cut you some slack.
It’s a very human approach. And most customers, aware of the situation, will be more forgiving should things not go perfectly.
This week kicks off a long holiday season. We’ll be dealing with service employees of all kinds, face to face and on the phone. Chances are good that at least some of them will be new.
If you remember what it was like to have demanding customers on the verge of screaming at you…hold that thought…and give the service reps and baristas and salespeople a break, as you take a deep breath and let “happy holidays” spring from your heart and roll off your tongue.
(c) 2014 Margie Dana. All rights reserved.