Ahh, customer service. Nothing compares to the customer who once threatened to get me fired because they didn't sleep for 26 hours and when they ordered, they forgot to order soy, and when I made their drink wrong, I was on their death list.
All jokes aside, in my four years as a barista, I've learned some quality lessons and skills from working in customer service, and these are lessons we could all use in our lives. After all, while everyone might not work in customer service at some point, we're all customers.
The biggest rule that has been around and used for more evil than good is that "the customer is always right," and this can sometimes get rough to handle. We're taught not to fight back, and to find the best solution to give the customer what they want, but we must also follow policy and not give away free things when not appropriate.
We are taught to hang in there and be calm when we just want to either go cry or fight. Working in customer service can train you for some nasty situations. Most of the people I work with have full life outside of work, and they are preoccupied with a million other things, just like everyone else. Having to take someone else's anger (sometimes uncalled for) does a great job of making you a tougher person.
2. I'm a better customer now.
I know how hard it can be to be patient and cheerful after an exhausting week of work. And I know what it's like to be busy and short-staffed and having to do two or three different jobs instead of one.
I know you don't want me to come in 30 seconds before you close because I myself would hate to be given an extra assignment minutes before I'm off. I understand the struggle, and because of it, I like to have more conversation with my servers. I always tip them; it can be rough out there.
3. How to handle people with no work ethic.
In customer service, people come and go like no other. In one year, a company will see 10 to 15 changes in employees sometimes. And some of those don't always work out. The demand for coffee has grown in the last few years, and so has the need for more human power to meet that need.
This means sometimes some companies will hire anyone, even those with a poor work ethic. These are the ones who are inattentive to customers, will call out all the time, and generally blow off their assigned duties. It can be a nightmare when your boss fails to see that this employee is more or less a waste of space. Eventually, you develop ways to work with, or around this person. You find some sort of medium ground so you don't lose your sanity.
4. How to teach.
In being a barista, I learned a lot of customers didn't know as much as I did about products, so I learned how to make recommendations, ask the right questions and teach them about how to make it a unique experience. I've also learned how to teach co-workers and be a leader when I'm training new employees.
5. How to talk to people/social skills.
My favorite part about my job as a barista was the people I met (the cool ones). Customers come from all over the place, and starting a conversation, or commenting on a small detail you notice, can lead to some good connections. And maybe even a date! Who knows?
6. How to have patience.
Patience is a virtue, and customer service will teach this to you. You might want to work at a faster pace than customers are allowing you, and sometimes there's too many customers and you're overwhelmed by your pace. But all you can do is just go with the flow. Getting angry will only make things worse.