Without Bernard

It is a souring experience to approach a checkout counter with a smile, only to have it not be reciprocated. Customer service workers propagate the mentality that customers should treat others as they would like to be treated. But too often, that approach doesn’t seem to be enough.

It is true. Selfish, rude consumers that like to walk the earth as Neanderthals have destroyed any on-the-job pleasantry that customer service workers once enjoyed. But for the few of us out there that still know to speak the words “please” and “thankyou,” our customer service experience has also become a negative one.

The majority of customer service encounters involve soulless workers with glazed-over looks in their eyes. These customer service workers couldn’t be more disinterested in their responsibility to provide actual service to the customer. Unfortunately, all it takes is one quick, unpleasant interaction to set you off on a down-hill streak for the next couple hours.

Bad days often begin at Temple’s Student Center food court.

We wrote an editorial on the unfriendly service at the Student Center two years ago [“Out of Service,” Sept. 27, 2005] and we regret to report that the situation has not improved. Nowadays, students are met with repeated unapologetic notices that certain food supplies have run out for the day and have items unceremoniously placed in their hands. The only smiles you’ll find are at the Nuaji sushi stand.

Customer service at Temple is about to take another harsh blow – one that it can’t really afford. Bernard James, the jolly employee at the Johnson and Hardwick cafeteria has departed this university for Drexel. James was an example of quality customer service that deserves to be held high as an example for all to replicate.

James made students feel good when they handed their Owl Cards for him to swipe – he always put a smile on our faces. His catch phrases and nicknames for days of the week (broke Tuesday, super Friday, etc.) were personal ways of connecting with the students. James went above and beyond what customer service workers need to do at their job and not everyone can be expected to do what he did. But they can certainly take a lesson.

James never showed weariness or displeasure. He masked it because it was his job. Read Morgan Zalot’s article “Part-time job searches end in customer service” on Page 7 to learn more about emotion labor – the art of hiding one’s feelings. James’s emotion labor made him a dedicated customer service agent who was great at his job. We’d venture to say that his professionalism enhanced his on-thejob happiness. We know it made the students happy.

This is a two-way battle. Customers should treat customer service reps with respect, but we’re also going to need it in return. Temple, in particular,is going to have to make a more fervent effort now, without Bernard.

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