Service with a smile

Last week, I was working in the box office of an international film festival. As we were operating out of an existing cultural centre, we were relegated to the cloakroom to run our makeshift enterprise, though it functioned suitably well in our quest to procure patrons with tickets for the vast array of cinematic offerings.

Of course, there were hiccups in the procedures, as we navigated through the computer’s less than agile ticketing system. Glitches sometimes occurred, especially when we had lineups and multiple inquires. I had one particular incident, while I was still learning the ropes, which resulted in me taking a few missteps, coupled with computer and printer errors and one spilled coffee – at the customer end, not mine, thankfully, but we eventually got through it. Fortunately, the patron was incredibly patient and kind. He could so easily have blown a gasket, but remained calm and understanding throughout, for which I was very grateful.

It was a lesson I could have used when I was recently doing some banking for my elderly mom, as I often do. Usually, I use the bank machine, but this time, I wanted to check something with a teller. I was mentally hoping not to get served by a particular person, as she always questions my POA credentials and the interaction takes forever. I did, of course, get her, and had to re-explain my situation, followed by her meticulously going through everything, including me signing my name twice, as my signature didn’t sufficiently match the one on file. I gritted my teeth, silently wishing I had used the ATM machine.

But the truth is that no one is perfect, and while we hope people are all doing their jobs to the best of their abilities, some customer service will always be better than others. But we all need to live with human foibles and errors too, if we want to have this personal interaction with at all. Machines are rapidly replacing people in every facet of our society, and soon, face-to-face transactions will become even more a thing of the past.

Such erasure will further erode our communication skills, and more poignantly, our ability to be courteous, patient and kind. With our being accustomed to automated efficiency, we are already a lot less forgiving of each other’s imperfections and errors. But it’s really okay to make mistakes, as long as we acknowledge, apologize and try to rectify them. And being on the receiving end, we really need to try and exercise patience and understanding, as there may come a time when we will be asking for the same treatment in return.

 While we still can, let’s give people a chance in the workplace to serve and help one another, with imperfections, yes, but often with a lot of charm and individuality too.

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