I had two great retail service experiences last weekend - well, three to be exact.
The first came Saturday morning at Best Buy, the lady who checked me out was just one of the funniest, nicest cashiers I've dealt with in my life. She was smiling, laughing and cracking jokes. It was quite apparent that she was a "people-person".
The second was Sunday at Borders. First, one of the employees went to check on a magazine for me that they sell but wasn't on the stand. It was super cool that she offered to do that. Second was the cashier - much like the one from Best Buy on Saturday, she was smiling and laughing and having a great time.
I'm sure it isn't "work" for these ladies - it's their innate need to help people, to fit in. My guess is that you could take any of the three of them and switch the stores they were working in and it would have been the same experiences for me.
I'm not one of those people who condemns the service sector - it can be a tough and crappy job for very low wages and most organizations don't exactly give employees a reason to care about customers.
I generally get good service wherever I go and I think it is because of the way I treat people. I also think that the negative perception that most people have about the service sector is one of expectations - most of the people who "serve" you in the course of a day are pleasant enough. They might not be entertaining or jovial, they just do their job. It's the reason that exceptional or bad service stand out, because most service is just average. As humans we have expectations about the way we should be treated and some people fail to meet those expectations.
Most employees are probably told to care about customers, to "go the extra mile". However, I doubt most organizations understand how to liberate their employees’ inherent need to fit in, to be part of a community.
Interestingly enough, when I got home on Sunday I caught a show on CSPAN featuring James Carville. Someone asked a question about something and his reply was fantastic:
... you can look at it one of two ways, you can be an appleist: you know there are obviously a couple of bad apples in the barrel, we just remove the bad apples and everything will be fine. Or, you're a barrelist: is there something wrong with the barrel we're putting the apples in?
I'm a barrelist. I believe that deep-down every human being is good and wants to do a good job. Sure, there are some people that shouldn't be working in customer-facing jobs - however, that is a problem with the barrel (organization), they should figure out who those people are before they put them in front of their customers.
So, which are you? An appleist or a barrelist?