Remember That Your Young Employees Spend a Lot of Time with Actual Customers
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One of the best reasons to teach young employees the basics of customer service is that they spend a lot of time dealing with actual customers. That’s not just a Gen Y-GenZ thing. That’s a young worker thing. Young workers are disproportionately represented in frontline service roles because these roles are often the lower-tier positions. This is often the case in retail settings, but it’s also true in many nonretail organizations too. In fact, most organizations seeking to scale their operations in any significant way will tend to put a young (and therefore relatively inexpensive) workforce out front.
“How do you know us?” asks the manager of a video store in a large chain. “You know us by the people behind the counter. The labor pool available for those jobs is usually pretty darned young. I can only hire who I can hire. But we get a lot of complaints about the younger counter help. Sometimes they are just unhelpful, distracted, doing their own thing, especially if the store is not too busy.” We see this often in our research. I call the social dynamic that develops among frontline Gen Yers and Zers in a customer service environment the “cash register culture” of that workplace. Because they spend hour after hour with their coworkers, Gen Yers and Zers often care much more about attending to their relationships with their coworkers than their relationships with customers. Instead of the customer service mission, their relationships with each other become the context of the job for some Gen Yers and Zers.
One Gen Yer offered his perspective on this issue: “You have to understand. I’m here all day. We are here all day. This is my job. My coworkers are my friends, and we are hanging together all day. Customers are just passing through. They come in here, probably don’t buy anything, or maybe they buy something. But they are just passing through. That’s how I look at it. In a way, to be honest, it feels like they are interrupting my day.”