Recently whilst giving a training course in "Customer Service and Complaint Handling", a participant raised the point that sometimes experience and maturity can help when dealing with difficult situations and awkward customers.
It led to a very interesting conversation. Most people agreed that we are probably better equipped to deal with difficult situations if we have experienced them before. We probably have more confidence and self-assurance the older we get too.
Looking around the room at the smiling faces of our younger audience I was reminded that this is not always the case. So I posed the question.
Surely younger people’s open-mindedness and eagerness to learn, coupled with a dedication and motivation to please customers should not be discounted?
Younger people are not as set in their ways. Often they often have the ability to think outside the box and come up with great solutions. I immediately remembered an instance when I was staying in a hotel a number of months ago, where I experienced fantastic service from a young trainee, whereas the more mature lady was quite dismissive and inflexible in the way she dealt with me.
The situation arose when I arrived down to breakfast on the first morning. I noticed that the fruit consisted of a bowl of “tinned sugary fruit”. Being a reputable 4 star hotel, I assumed it was okay to ask the young waitress if there was any other fruit. She came out with a banana and apple apologising, whilst saying she would pass my comments on to the chef.
The following morning, there was an older lady working in the restaurant. The same “tinned sugary fruit” was on display, so I approached her asking if she had any fresh fruit. She told me “that’s all they had…and no one else had complained”. This bold and useless statement annoyed me. I politely ignored it and explained that I didn’t like tinned fruit because of the sugar, whilst mentioning that I had spoken to her colleague the previous morning and that she was going to talk to the chef.
I happened to notice there were some bananas and apples at the end of the table. Instead of directing me to them, the waitress reminded me that they didn’t provide fresh fruit salad and that no one else had complained.
Whilst maintaining a smile, I replied “That for every 25 unhappy customers only 1 person will ever tell you”. I was not proud of myself for rising to the bait. I also realised there was no point getting annoyed so I thanked her and walked on. It was obvious she didn’t want to understand the customer’s perspective or find a solution for me. And when she walked away I took an apple and banana and went back to my seat.
What struck me the most about this experience is that we should never make assumptions and that things are not always as straightforward as we think. Mostly, I learnt that we should not to be biased because of someone’s age. I now believe that it’s down to the individual’s attitude and willingness to listen and learn that makes the difference at the end of the day.