My post of March 10 created feedback and debate, not only here on my website but on social platforms. Similar to most creators of a regular blog, I was thrilled this happened. Not only that, I learned a lot from the ensuing discussion that will directly impact the content I create going forward. I’m going to share this with you … starting with an apology.
To the staff and patrons of the Halifax Starbucks at Kaye and Isleville, I am extremely sorry for how I portrayed you and your cafe in the March 10 post. It was irresponsible of me. It was unkind and devoid of generosity. I could have shared the lesson from my experience in many different ways and I regret my choice.
As comments and feedback to the post arrived, I began to feel uncomfortable but I remained confident that my post was valid. Over the almost 10 years of collecting and sharing customer service stories, it had not occurred to me that my presentation of the information was uncaring and even mean-spirited. Now I know better, and as Maya Angelou said so eloquently: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
The words that changed everything for me came from Mark. He responded to the post several times and in his comments on March 15, he shared: “You could easily have posted the exact same story without intentionally damaging the reputation of a local business” and then added “…this is not communicating in a constructive manner. This only shames.”
He’s absolutely right.
In writing the post the way that I did, I acted in a similar way to what I witnessed in the cafe that morning. I communicated with annoyance and frustration without any consideration for the staff. I focused only on my experience of the event, and what I saw and heard from the man with the request about the ice and snow. Staff met his request, very quickly, with annoyance and frustration. As comments on my post indicate, there had been a lot of comments, conversation and discussion for several days about the winter situation that was beyond the staff’s control.
What mortifies me the most is Mark’s use of the word “shame”. This is so distant from who I am and how I walk through my life, yet he’s correct. When any of us comment on how individuals have behaved, without speaking with them, learning the back story, taking the time to understand the full picture, we do create shame. And that is … wrong. The world and our lives are messy enough without our undermining each other through our content and on social.
For me, going forward, I will never again call out specific staff in my content. I am grateful to Mark for this insight and this lesson.
My reflections on this incident don’t change the truth of the customer service element. All of this reminded me of one of my first employers in Toronto when I was still in university. She remains a very close friend but, in those years, I was a 20-year-old naive child and she was a business owner in her mid-thirties. It was important to her that the fingerprints that collected on our office’s glass front door be removed, constantly. I had the audacity to say to her, “It’s not my job”. She looked at me sternly and replied: “You may think it’s not your job but in doing it, you get to keep your job.” A harsh statement for sure but I’ve never forgotten it.
There is no value, no positive outcome, to ever uttering the words “It’s not my job” or “I don’t get paid to do that”. It’s true that the ice and snow were not the responsibility of the cafe’s staff, nor could they viably remove it. They did not have the right equipment or the time, and the work involved could easily have caused injury.
What were the options? How about: “Thanks for coming in to talk to us about it. You are not alone in commenting on it. We are in touch with both the landlord and the city and hope that it is cleared very soon.” Or, “Sorry – we know the ice and snow are a terrible inconvenience. We don’t have tools necessary to remove it ourselves but we are continually in touch with both the landlord and the city. It should be cleared very soon.”