What Millennials Can Learn From Customer Service Jobs

Service jobs can teach a variety of valuable career skills. We have compiled just a few through the experienced perspective of one of our authors.

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At the young age of 16, I was hired part-time as a stylist’s assistant at one of the local salons in my neighborhood. I worked in a beautiful area and ended up staying with the salon for over five years. I loved the people I worked with and appreciated what I learned while working with and for the public. I can now empathize with many employees in similar professions.

As millennials, we hear all the time that we come off as entitled, impatient or whatever Urban Dictionary wants to classify us as. Over the years, I’ve defended many professions based around customer service and I truly think it’s important for young adults and teenagers to remember how valuable “people skills” are — they go a long way in many career options. Here are a few examples:

Eye contact, people!
First and foremost, make eye contact with the person you are speaking to. Not only does it come off as rude to not, but it makes the waitress, assistant, cashier, etc., feel unimportant. Yes, everyone gets a sudden phone call, but there is no reason to be scrolling through Instagram or texting while trying to order a meal or make a payment of some sort.

On the employee side, when working for the public, the goal should be to make each and every customer interaction a positive one. Eye contact and simply saying “please” and “thank you” go a lot further than you may think.

Patience is a Virtue
Because we are the generation blessed with Easy Mac and pizza rolls, we tend to forget that other things may take longer than two minutes. Next time you are out to eat, or if your hairstylist, nail lady or bartender seems to be taking longer than expected – here’s some advice: just breathe. Appointments and reservations are made to create structure and a form of time management. It is your duty as a customer and a human to be on time, but it should also be understood that there is a possibility of waiting.

Keep in mind it’s not that the employees don’t want to serve you, it’s just that most businesses like being personable with their customers and conversations can lead to a longer appointment or stay at the table – which is a form of networking! These types of conversations are great practice for any client interaction down the road.

Gratuity, Shmatuity
“She took so long to get me my food, I’m not tipping her,” said all of us. I cannot stress enough how important tips are to people working in customer service. Please always tip. It is very common for businesses to under pay their employees, knowing that they will make money off tips. (If my old boss is reading this, I promise that this does not pertain to you). Every single waitress, hairdresser, “nail lady,” bartender, etc., looks forward to their tips. It could be what’s paying their phone bill or simply to treat themselves to a nice day at the salon or evening at a restaurant.

There are always going to be “bad eggs” in an industry and one that may not be the perfect person to work around people, but do not leave them empty handed. If they are trying, they are working and deserve to be compensated for their service. If you’re an employee working with this type of person, the same type of understanding applies.

This statement excludes the lazy employees who like to sit and hide, rather than help you with your services or assist their fellow employees. 

So to all my fellow millennials, be respectful of all the people trying to help you — whether as a customer or in your career journey. Smile and be polite. Look into someone’s eyes while saying “thank you.” Be patient and tip the person who served you that delicious meal or gave you that fabulous new look! And, of course, remember that the skills you acquire in a customer service-based job are applicable to any industry.

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