Saturday, December 26, 2009

How Hard is it to Smile?

~ A smile is the universal welcome. ~
Max Eastman

I just recently made a trip to our local city hall in lieu of my passport application. My purpose was to obtain a local copy of my birth certificate at the civil registry so that I could compare whether there is really a clerical error on my name. Unfortunately there is but this article is actually about another thought. It's about my experience every time I pay a visit to our city hall.

About 90 percent of the time that I spent there to get me a cedula, a police clearance or any government document , I very seldom see an employee extending a smile especially to the one outside the window. Yes, they tell jokes to each other and most of the times share stories while working and during those precious moments you can actually see a hint of smile on their faces but once they're already dealing with you or any other person outside the window, that smile quickly vanishes. Woosh, Just like that. It's like you can actually hear them saying, What do you want? Even though all that there is is a blank stare.

With this I can't help but ask why most if not majority of these city hall employees are old? I mean not old old but enough to say that they've been there for a while. Is there a certain rule on hiring new ones? I mean really. Try to be more observant on your next visit and you'll know what I mean. Or maybe just maybe, it's their attitude towards work that makes them look a lot older than their age?

I'm pretty sure you've been inside a bank. Falling in line whether to deposit or withdraw money. At first blush you'll notice that it's typically the same. Their jobs I mean. Face a customer, assist them the best way possible and that's it. I mean how hard is it really? To somehow insert a smile in between these two steps?

What could be the reason behind this? Aren't they being compensated enough like those that work in banks? I doubt cause a street sweeper has more smile to offer compared to them. So it's not about the money. Then what? Training maybe?

I worked in the customer service industry for a while and part of our job is to smile on every call we take even though our customers can't really see it on our faces. Our trainers used to say that the person on the other side of the line could actually hear you smiling. Man believe me, it was hard. But you know what? Come to think of it. It's actually one of the best lessons I learned during my stay there and sometimes that smile is what gets us through that entire 8 hour shift.

Customer service is not that different with civil service. So just a little experiment for those of you who will be going to your respective municipal or city halls. Try to initiate the first smile and see what happens. Just like in the movie Patch Adams. If you receive a smile back then that's good but if not. Think of it as your gift to the one assisting you. Who knows, maybe one day he/she might realize that there's more to that 8 to 5 job after all.

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