ST. LOUIS — What type of theater experience have you had?
Why do I ask you that question?
Because if you have ever been on stage in a play, part of a band, chorus, dance group, stage manager, grip, sound, prompter, make up, lighting, director, or any form of theater where the audience and other co-workers are depending on you, then you probably already know the answer to why I ask.
And you probably have a great background for customer service!
I have a professional theater background and it has helped my career thrive immensely in the customer service arena. Now, it doesn't mean if you don't have a theater background you won't be good in customer service. It just means you'll understand the mentality of customer service faster — and perhaps better.
“Theater 101,” as I call it, is a perfect pre-curser to being in customer service. It prepares you in the best way for all these topics and many more. Actually, I fibbed; there are more than 11 skills. That's a good thing though. Here they are.
• Interacting with others.
• Being on time.
• Knowing priorities.
• Learning how to say something even when you forget your lines.
• Knowing how to have a phony smile even when you don't want to.
• Understanding your problems are just that — your problems.
• Learning to work well with others, even if you don't like them.
• Understanding how it all “comes together.”
• Helping others when they forget or don't know what to say.
• Learning the “show must go on” mentality.
• Learning how to read a script without sounding like it.
• Knowing the applause is for everyone.
• No complaining!
• Keeping your lines sounding fresh — no matter how many times you've said them.
• Getting it right “the first time.”
• Practice, practice and more practice.
• Learning to go with the flow.
Here's a real life example of “The Show Must Go On” skill:
On the day of one of our Saturday performances — we did a matinee and evening show — I got a bee sting on my foot. It swelled up and I couldn't put my shoe on that foot.
I had a show to do at 2 p.m.. What to do? What to do? Sure, I could go barefoot, but that might ruin the show for the others. And certainly for the audience. Theater minds do not want to do that.
So the theater mind in me said, “Figure it out, Nancy. Do something. You need to be at the theater in 1 hour and 45 minutes.”
Theater minds are not necessarily logical minds. However, we are spontaneous. We are quick thinkers. We know something has to be done and we figure out how.
My husband has a bigger foot than I do, so that was not going to look very good if I wore his shoes. (Didn't go with my outfit anyway.)
What to do? What to do?
I believe I did what most fellow actors would do. I thought of something. The stinger of the bee was removed. I took two aspirins and took my own shoes for the show with me to the theater. I got to the theater in time for the 30-minute call and told the stage manager — theater translation: The Boss — what happened.
“However,” I said, “I'll be ok. It feels a little bit better and I can squeeze into the shoe.”
So that's what I did. I squeezed into the shoe and the show went on. The performance was great. The audience never knew anything was wrong.
Was I in pain? Yes. However, I knew I had a job to do. I wasn't going to let the other actors down and I certainly wouldn't let the audience down. In essence they were all my customers. They were depending on me.
So here's a question for you: If you got a bee sting on your foot, would you go to work? Would you be able to talk with customers and not let that affect you? Would you complain about it, talk about it until others were sick of hearing about it?
The theater mind is one that thinks of the audience before themselves.
In reality it's the same with your customers. Think of them before you. Remember, customer service is the “stage.” The customers are your “audience.” Now go out there and make yourself a star!
Nancy Friedman's columns appear periodically in Tire Business. She is president of Telephone Doctor Inc., an international customer service training company based in St. Louis. She can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 314-291-1012. Her website is www.nancyfriedman.com.