Customer service workers deserve appreciation


Mark Capapas

The Starbucks in the Illini Union experiencing a rush hour around 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Columnist Alice Lee explains how rush hours like this can cause stress for customer service workers.

By Alice Lee, Columnist

People always say “seeing is believing” to essentially sum up the idea that you don’t really know what it’s like for someone until you step into their shoes. It’s appropriate to extend this line of thinking to the field of customer service. 

Until you’ve worked in customer service yourself, it’s all too easy to overlook how stressful and grueling it can actually be.

I worked as a barista for a major coffee chain this summer, and while the experience itself was enjoyable — especially the free drink perk — dealing with rude and cranky customers was not. From handling situations where a customer wanted their drink remade four times to people not believing we don’t sell smoothies, I’ve seen firsthand how intense customer service jobs can be, when in the past, I’ve overlooked them. 

Apart from learning communication skills when talking to customers and ensuring they receive the best care possible, customer service workers also have to be able to think quickly and solve any problems that arise randomly throughout a shift. Some customers will have very specific requests, and it may be difficult to decipher what they actually want, but it’s important to remember the workers are doing their best to accommodate the customer, and no one should cry over spilled coffee.

One of the main things I realized working as a barista is there are many interruptions beyond the employee’s control that disrupts the flow of drink-making, so I understand now why drinks sometimes take a while to come out. Knowing what it’s like to be slammed with orders makes you think twice before getting angry and impatient with the baristas behind the counter.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have horror stories about their work, but nothing makes you appreciate the work they actually do like living it yourself. Whether it’s working customer service in the form of a coffee shop, restaurant or retail, it motivates you to want to be a better customer because now you know what it’s like on the flip side.

Anyone who’s worked in customer service before understands what it’s like to be snapped at or yelled at and are less likely to do it themselves because they don’t want to cause workers the stress and anxiety they’ve experienced. So in times of impatience as a customer, it’s beneficial to relate to the people working behind the counter and realize being compassionate helps most of all.

The golden saying of “treat others how you would want to be treated” is a universal philosophy and applies heavily in the world of customer service. Of all the lessons life teaches us, kindness should outweigh them all, and customer service workers are a group of people who would benefit greatly from a bit more of it.

Alice is a sophomore in LAS.

[email protected]