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Customer Service 101: Professionalism in Business Situations Matters

Categories: Workplace Etiquette

The other day, I met with a business acquaintance at a local coffee shop with lovely outdoor seating. My colleague arrived early, and was already sitting outside with her latte when I got there.

After placing my order, I stood waiting while the barista argued with her manager about her upcoming schedule, which nights she was expected to close, why that didn’t work for her, and what she thought would work better. Another barista jumped in on the conversation, and they all stood there -- including the manager -- hashing it out while the line grew longer, my colleague waited outside alone, and my coffee remained unmade.

Unprofessional behavior on the part of the staff -- or no big deal? What’s your opinion?

Is it even realistic to expect any standard of professionalism in a local coffee shop that hires college kids and probably pays minimum wage? Does it even matter? What’s your opinion?

And what about the coffee shop’s manager? Why did he allow this conversation to go on? A simple, “Let’s continue this when we have no customers,” would have sufficed, restoring professionalism, serving the customer (me) and showing his team member what is and isn’t appropriate. Simple!

I’ve never seen this kind of behavior in a Starbucks, nor can I imagine it happening. Say what you want about corporate America and the demise of local businesses because of franchises like Starbucks -- at least they offer specific customer service training and have standards of appropriate behavior.

Personally, I’d like to receive my coffee as soon as possible when I order one -- especially with a colleague waiting for me and business to discuss. I would not like to receive a debate over coffee shop staff scheduling.

But that’s just me. Perhaps I’m uptight, out-of-the-loop, old-fashioned, old-school, and behind the times ...

It’s only coffee, right? Chill out ... they’re just kids ... what do I expect? ... What’s my rush?

I am not going to stop frequenting that lovely shop because of one minor “non-incident” with one slightly unprofessional barista. Perhaps employee scheduling is an ongoing issue, perhaps she got a bit over-emotional, which certainly happens. And everyone has an "off" day.

Here’s why I think professionalism still does matter, even in a situation such as this one ...

I doubt that this young woman would like to remain a barista for the rest of her working life. So, learning professional conduct now can only help her when she’s ready to move on to a “bigger” job, perhaps in corporate America, or anywhere else.

Insisting on certain standards of professionalism would help the coffee shop, the manager, the staff, and all of the customers. Just sayin’ ...

Has professionalism becoming an endangered species? I doubt it. I think that those who take the time and make the effort to act in a professional manner will always rise to the top. (And get the tip.)

But never mind about what I think. I really want to hear what you think. Leave me a comment and let’s discuss it.

Next time I'm going to blog about speaking to C-level audiences -- turning what could be a daunting task for some into a great opportunity by mastering your presentation style to target senior leadership.

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