For the Love of the Craft: Authentic Customer Service

This past weekend, while on a day trip to a very large mall in upstate New York, I had two very interesting encounters that showed me what genuine customer service looks like (and feels like on the receiving end).  Both of these interactions involved people who had a genuine interest and love of what they were doing, enjoying the craftsmanship of their jobs.  Let me explain.

Interaction #1:
The first one was at an eyeglasses store.  I needed to get my frames adjusted because they weren’t sitting right and it was kind of annoying.  So this really nice girl told me to follow her over to the counter where there were stools and mirrors.  She sat on a stool on the other side and asked me what was going on.  When I explained it, she had me take my glasses off, and then carefully looked them over.  There was something about the way that she held them and looked at them that showed me she was genuinely interested in solving this puzzle.  She made a couple adjustments, and then asked me to try them back on.  They felt a little bit better, but the original issue was still there.  So then she called a man over who works with her, and had him look at them.  She watched and helped him as he made some more adjustments, and you could tell that both of them were fascinated with the process.  When I tried them on this time, they felt infinitely better, and I could tell that they were almost as excited about that as I was.  They clearly enjoyed putting their skills into practice.

Interaction #2:
A little bit later in the day, we wandered into a shoe store because they carried a pair of boots that I have been curious about trying on.  A young guy came up to us and asked me what size I was, and then went into the back to grab it.  He came back with about four different boxes, and explained that he had grabbed the size I had said, as well as a half size above and below, and a different color as well just in case I wanted to try that.  As if that wasn’t enough, he stayed to talk with me about exactly how I would go about caring for the material of the boots, and he clearly knew what he was talking about.  The whole time, he was kind of kneeling in front of me like I remember they used to do in shoe stores when I was little (I know, that makes me sound old), ready to help me in any way that he could.  I got up to walk around in the boots I had tried on, and when I came back, he was kneeling in front of Ben with a sort of towel in his hands, shining up the leather on Ben’s shoes!!  Turns out, the shoes Ben was wearing that day were from that store, and the guy had recognized them and thought they could use a little love.  The care that he took in shining them was unbelievable, and, like the girl in the glasses store, it was obvious that he genuinely enjoyed what he was doing.

These encounters left me with a thought: perhaps the craftsmanship of so many jobs has been lost.  Maybe the corporate-ness (is that a word?  Indulge me.) of things has made employees feel more like a piece of a puzzle rather than a person with particular skills.  The less a job becomes about skills, and the mastery of a certain set of them, the less a person can take pride in their work–because they could easily start to think, “ya know what, anyone could do this job.”  But if an employee truly believes that there are skills that need to be mastered in order for them to do their job well, and that they are really good at their job, then they are going to genuinely enjoy doing it.  They will be doing it for the love of the craft.

And that’s where the really great customer service comes in.  Both of the people in the above stories clearly enjoyed what they were doing and saw it as an art form of sorts.  So when we needed their help, they were enthusiastic about using their skills to help us.  It was less of a “customer needing help” scenario than it was a “person in need of my particular set of skills” scenario.  And who doesn’t enjoy practicing something that they’re good at–or should I say, honing their craft?

So many businesses could be helped by simply shifting their thinking and trying to find a way to make the jobs of each employee feel more like a craft.  This is obviously going to be easier for businesses which involve actual hands-on work, but I think any business could find a way to weave in this mentality.  When people take pride in the craftsmanship of their work, and see it as an art, they will undoubtedly enjoy it more and therefore give it their best effort.