I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how you gain knowledge in life, personally or professionally.
Books, podcasts, stories, articles, gossiping, social media, research are all ways of providing information in the attempt to stimulate your thinking and teach you something, basically all summing up to be information taught by others.
Alternatively experiential knowledge is derived from direct, personal experience. Experiential knowledge is what we base our lives and teachings on. It is all we have to go on when it comes down to it. Everything else can be fleeting and proven wrong; experiential knowledge is truly ours and you can’t get much more connected to learning something than this.
Some lessons we experience hit harder than others. Some lessons come to us early enough so that we can master them throughout our careers or avoid making that same mistake twice.
One of the most vivid lessons I learned in customer service was to never speak ill of a customer, no matter what they have said or done.
I was 16 years of age, working the McDonalds Drive Through as the order taker one mid week night. The customer speaking into the order taker box was slurring, changing her mind and holding up many cars behind her. Back then the order taker headset was designed as such that one button was external to the speaker box and the other was to your co-worker who was preparing the order. Let’s just say I pressed the wrong button and made a few comments to my co-worker about how annoying the lady was….. only to find out that I had pressed the WRONG BUTTON!
I was absolutely mortified and hid from the customer as she came driving around the corner in a rage threatening to tear my hair out, yep lesson learnt and I have never said a bad word about a customer since.
So if we are all in agreement that the best lessons are the ones you experience yourself, then how do we harness the lessons staff learn when they interact with customers? I reckon there would be one thousand stories a day like my McDonalds story that employees have to tell about their interactions with the customer.
When we reflect on experiences and take the time to debrief and think about the interactions we have in the workplace with fellow human beings, our social awareness of how we respond to others is being fine tuned.
Dr Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence, suggests that Social Awareness is made up of;

  • Primal Empathy – sensing other peoples feelings
  • Attunement – listening with full receptivity
  • Empathic Accuracy – understanding others thoughts and intentions
  • Social Cognition – understanding the social world and the working web of relationships

The true experts in the service industry have not only built up a repertoire of experiential knowledge BUT they have been socially aware enough to learn from their interactions and reactions from staff and customers and have polished and fine tuned their social awareness to influence, persuade and ultimately get the desired interactions when working with staff and serving customers.
I’d love to hear some of your own lessons learned over the years in the service industry that raised your social awareness up a notch! Please share!!
Jaquie Scammell
‘Why serve when you can inspire’