Customer service is a weird thing. It’s weird because it’s a temporary emotional connection. It’s an interaction that is, inevitably, going to end. So how far do we take it?
I’m going to make the argument that you can’t take it far enough.
Last Friday, my cat got sick. And I’m talking sick. One moment she’s lying on my bed, rubbing up against my chest, the next she starts twitching, and having a complete neurological episode. She starts seizing on my floor, loses the ability to walk, fine motor skills failing her completely.
I rushed her to the vet. I bundled her up in a blanket and drove all the way with her nuzzled up against my chest. The vet tried. She really did. But less than three hours later, I got a call. Complete respiratory arrest. They were keeping her alive with an intubated bag.
I’m on my way.
“Want me to wait for you to get here?”
No. Stop pumping. Don’t keep her alive just for me. If she’s ready to go, she’ll go.
Less than ten minutes later, they brought me into the room.
“She didn’t make it.”
I sat there, cradling this little terror in my arms.
“Do you want to check out here? Or up front?” He asks.
1.) Checking out? What the hell is this, a hotel that animals come to to die?
2.) No I don’t want to fucking pay up front I’m holding my dead fucking cat did you even think before asking that question?
But I just say, Here is fine. Because I understand that this is a weird, emotionally charged situation.
And on my way out, the cost of one college course later, I was sobbing. Walking down the hallway, past the front desk, my little baby wrapped up in my arms, tears running down my face.
And no one stopped me. No one stopped to just reach out and say they were sorry. No one stopped to touch my shoulder, to offer me some hint of warmth, of compassion, of empathy. Because, for them, this was awkward. The transaction was over they did what they could it was time for me to go. The bill was signed. The paperwork settled and filed away. Business as usual.
I’m a private person. I like to cry in peace. Crying is embarrassing and plus I look like a total freak show my face is cherry red and swollen and I’m projecting snot all over the place I get it. But I was alone. I was so alone in that moment and there were 15 people watching me, feeling bad for me, sorry for me, but never feeling anything with me. And that fucking sucked. I cringe at most human contact, but in that moment, I wanted nothing more than the feeling of a hand upon my shoulder.
You see, customer service is about connections–and connections don’t just up and end when a bill is paid. They continue.
If you want to cry in peace, then don’t come into my bar. Because I’ll nuzzle up next to you on the closest bar stool, sitting nearly in your lap, and give you all the love I have to offer.
I chose a job that meant I had to work with people so guess what, I’m going to fucking work with people. I’m going to work with you to work through your shit, because human contact is not a transaction, and it doesn’t end with a signature. I’m going to look you in the eye and I’m going to tell you this is lame and dorky and cheesy as all else but I’m going to hug you right now. Because, before a bartender, I am a human being. Which means I get it. I understand. I’ll never let you cry alone. Shit, I have a thousand tears to spare. So let’s get started, cause we could be here for a while.