Monday, April 8, 2013

Say My Name Say My Name: Asking For Help Without Being Rude

As someone who has worked several retail and customer service jobs, I've seen a whole range of politeness. Some people are absolutely delightful, appreciative, and sweet. Others are, well, less so.

One of the things that can really set the tone for how an experience between a customer and an employee will go is the approach. How you ask a worker for assistance is extremely important, and will shape how helpful and polite they are to you (to a point, sometimes people are just in a bad mood or are coming off of helping someone else who was horrible).

The way you get their attention is vital, as are tone of voice and use of questions instead of declarations. If you shout from across the store, the employee is not going to be happy about it. If you don't actually get their attention and just start loudly asking questions, they may not even realize you are talking to them, and when they do, you'll have to start over. If you demand things instead of asking nicely, they will be less inclined to be helpful.

Approach the employee. Yes, this means walking over to them, not shouting from twenty feet away. Say "excuse me." If they are already helping someone else, say something like "when you're done, can you help me X?" If they are free, just ask them politely for whatever you need. Use a calm tone of voice. Say "please" and "thank you." If they can't find something, or they can't do something because of store policy, don't yell at them. Chances are, they did not implement the policy but they have to enforce it whether they like it or not if they want to keep their job (I wrote about this recently). Act like you are grateful for their help, not like you are doing them a favor by allowing them to run around doing things for you. If they tell you there is nothing left of an item/size/color, believe them. Chances are, they've recently been in the stock room looking for that and they aren't trying to pull a fast one or get out of working. Thank them for their help. Basically, just exercise common courtesy and don't treat them like they are beneath you because of where they work. 

Some places track the success of their employees. If the cashier asks who was helping you, that's what they are doing. In places like this, get the person's name. If you aren't sure whether or not the place will do this, just make a mental note of what they look like and what they are wearing, so you can describe them to the cashier just in case. If they did an especially impressive job, tell someone, preferably a manager.

Remember: working customer service is a demanding and frustrating job where employees often get condescended to and pushed around. You can be the difference between someone going home happy or crying to their roommate/friends/partner about how much they hate life and want to quit their job.

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