Despite holding what must be one of the best management positions in the entire training and development industry, once a week I venture out of my office, put on a uniform and wait tables in a small, friendly restaurant in my neighborhood.
Why? Well, it's not the money. As a volunteer, I actually don't even get paid. And it's not that I have time to kill—a hefty workload and long to-do list are constants in my life. It's not even the fact that "sensible shoes" now come in adorable styles.
I wait tables because no other endeavor has taught me more about applying customer service skills on the job. The key word here is applying. Having developed and facilitated customer service training for decades, I honestly don't think there's too much information that I don't know. But knowing is not necessarily doing.
It's the application of these skills—the continuous challenge to be efficient and cheerful in the face of pressure, repetitive tasks, and hungry, hurried diners—that results in the assimilation of the knowledge.
In turn, I feel that my hands-on experience as a waitress increases my understanding of what my clients and trainees deal with on the job. Further, my empathy for them is continually renewed (pretty much by the time I take my second table of the shift). They may be answering billing questions instead of slinging apple pie, but many of the tasks and techniques overlap.
One key premise of Impact's customer service training course Getting to the Heart of Customer Service™ is that service (of any form) is an intrinsically rewarding profession—that there's just something in the human psyche that finds satisfaction in making something good happen to another individual. I've certainly found this to be true; I guess that's why I keep showing up for my shifts.