Your Career and You: "Customer Service-It’s in the Eyes"

I just had an interesting experience at a local, somewhat upscale, pizza place.
Went in. Ordered a pizza and coke to go. Paid. Waited. Picked up. Left.
In that roughly 15-minute interval, the young lady at the register never once made eye-contact with me.
Ø  As she was processing my order, her eyes were glued to the register.
Ø  When I paid, she carefully examined the top of the counter between us.
Ø  When my order was ready, she ogled the pizza cooker guy.
Ø  And as she slid the pizza box and coke across the counter, the best I can figure is she was checking out a spider crawling up the wall behind me.
Absolutely NO eye-contact in this entire process with the customer.
I chimed in on a blog postthis morning (pre-pizza) about one of the culprits in this “failure to see eye-to-eye”…social media and mobile devices. I deal with it in the classroom…and in the “real world” as a shopper.
We/you have grown up in an online world, and apparently there’s now a fear of turning to stone if you actually set eyes on someone, like in the tales of the goddess Medusa. Seems that, if you looked directly at her, you would instantly turn into a rock. Hard way to go(snicker, snicker)!
But that’s mythology, and I’m talking about real-world customer service where people interact…where there are people who need people to help them. And part of that interaction is eye contact.
I hear time and again from colleagues in the professional world that one of their pet peeves in a job interview is the inability…or outright failure…of the interviewee to make eye contact during the interview.
Flash forward to yourself at work. How do you think the customer feels when you don’t bother to look at him or her?
I won’t ask how you would feel if that were to happen to you because I doubt that you would even notice or care…feel free to correct me if I’m wrong (sneaky way to find out who’s reading this blog!)!
So this is a short rant today on a growing problem as the younger generations morph into the workplace and, at least for brief periods of time, are detached from their computer screens or mobile devices.
Look at people when you are interacting with them…you won’t turn to stone, and you will make the other person feel appreciated…and you just mightconvert that person to a return customer!
How cool would that be?!?
“Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent, and always assist him to save face. Put yourself in his shoes – so as to see things through his eyes.”Basil Henry Liddell Hart, “Deterrent or Defense [1960], ‘Advice to Statesmen’”

About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 20 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in Customer Service, job hunting, job search, Pizza. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Your Career and You: "Customer Service-It’s in the Eyes"

  1. I started with my now 22 year old when she was a baby having her look me in the eyes. If anything it creates a confidence that is hard to beat. I agree I expect it when I receive service.


  2. I timed it today with the pizza place, Roger, because I really wanted to see how long she could go without looking at me. She exceeded expectations!Thanks very much for your feedback!


  3. I am the type of consumer who will avoid companies with poor customer service – even after just one unpleasant interaction. (Read: Megabus). Unfortunately, not everyone sees themselves as an extension of a brand, and more importantly, their own brand. This post had me thinking, if only PR pros and brand strategists had more of a role in customer service training!


  4. Good suggestion, Steph. I do my level best in the classroom to instill your excellent thought in my students' heads. Customer service IS public relations…and always will be.Thanks very much for reading and commenting!


  5. M. Frost says:

    I am often annoyed by poor customer service. I am now at a point where I will call the store if & when an employee greets me when I reach the register (instead of just standing there), tells me my total (instead of the awkward silence), then says thank you at the conclusion of our transaction with extra props if they say "have a nice day" or some other pleasantry. It is SAD that this is what I should expect as a baseline but service has got so poor that I compliment the basics!


  6. I actually had an encounter with a young lady this morning…flaming pink hair, I might add…who I approached with no great expectations.She was incredibly cheerful, kept eye-contact throughout the sales transaction, and concluded with a very pleasant farewell.There IS hope!! Thanks for your feedback!


  7. Ainsley says:

    I agree with all the comments about the importance of eye-contact re customer service and success in life in general…However, remember that there are many folks who live at different levels of introversion and who are highly successful to be able to interact enough have a job at a pizza parlor. The point is to start with an appreciative approach as we meet others.


  8. I think the operative word is "appreciative," Ainsley. The message hasn't sunk in that, if it weren't for us, the customers, the employee would not have a job.When I was with the Blood Bank of Hawaii, I asked a question once in a staff meeting: "What is the one thing that, if we don't have it, we're dead in the water?"The immediate response from several was "blood."And MY response was, "Wrong."Shocked looks from many.Then I said, "The one thing that, if we don't have it, we're dead in the water…is BLOOD DONORS."They were stunned…they had never really thought of the "donor" as the crucial link; they thought it was the donor's blood.From that point on, we really focused our attention on the HUMAN BEING that enabled us to serve the patients of Hawaii.Made a BIG difference in service levels!Thanks for your feedback!


  9. Noreen Clay says:

    Perhaps the cashier was either busy punching in the order, or she feels uncomfortable to look at the customer in the eye. Still, she should practice to do this, especially when she greets the customer and when she takes their orders. After all, eye contact between the staff and the customer shows sincerity to help, which makes for a good customer service.


  10. Hi Noreen ~That's the "secret" if you're uncomfortable…"practice" looking people in the eye. Ease into it.As I've said (truthfully) in numerous previous posts, I am a card-carrying introvert. Large crowds totally freak me out…with shortened breath, sweaty palms…all the baggage.So I ease into large-crowd situations (PRSA International Conference, for example) slowly, starting with one or two people, then moving on to slightly larger groups, and on and on.Practicing making eye contact is much the same…start with "baby steps" and work up.Thanks very much for your feedback!


  11. Sonia Roody says:

    Yes, throwing a welcoming party serves a lot of purpose. First is to let their clients know that the vet is equally good as the one moving to Florida, while the other purpose is simply to welcome the new guy. Practicing ideal customer service is the lifeblood of any enterprise, since this is essential in elevating your business via a clean and fair trade.


  12. My apologies for the delay in responding, Sonia. You're right…good customer service is vital…and ensuring that your colleagues/co-workers/employees also understand this is crucial!


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