Have you ever been asked a question that is beyond comprehension? Not something complex, like quantum physic calculations; no, a question--a simple one, even--that forces you to pause, think, get frustrated, and mentally waltz with how to answer it.

I get these sorts of questions frequently, especially at work. Since I'm soon going into the coffee business both full-time and on a large scale, I'll have to learn how to deal with this. Let's work with an illustration. A customer comes into the Coffee Beanery (my current job, at the BV mall). They stop far enough away from counter so that you can't activiely engage them in conversation, rock back and forth on their feet, and bite lips while staring at the menu. This goes on for a few minutes as they ignore offers for help or suggestions.

They come forward with their question. It's not simple, not a "what is..." or "tell me about...." It's something like this: "You can do one of them frozen things in sugar-free cappuccino flavor, right?"

My mind explodes. I don't know how to answer this diplomatically, so I just blurt out "no" while frowning like Burt from "Sesame Street." Roll call on the next move: explain to them that cappuccino isn't a flavor, but a form of drink? that sugar-free with frozen drinks doesn't exactly work well with the sugar-saturated cream base? that "cappuccino" and "frozen" don't play well together? And all the while the customer gets impatient--this stupid kid he don't know what he's doin' don't know nothin' 'bout them cappuccinos or expressos.

This happens to me often, and I'm still not used to it. I need to get used to it, because there's a lot more of that comin', starting really really soon. I plan on being as gentle as I can, explaining whatever I need to in a friendly manner. The next step is learning how to process the questions without punching the customers in the throat.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 9/09/2006 11:18:00 PM,


At 12:49 PM, Blogger Janet said...

at least you will have a better position of authority in the new place. Also, these will be self concious college students that are constantly being told by teachers that they know nothing.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger James said...

Selling televisions and DVD's has led to me answering this question ten to twenty times a day: "Why dem bars on top and bottom of my TV?" No matter how many times or how passionately I extoll the virtues of the widescreen aspect ratio, people want their television "filled all up."

At 11:40 AM, Blogger lucas said...

i found in my time in customer service that if you sorta act like the question is incredibly dumb (but you're trying to be polite), people generally won't pursue the matter further, b/c they don't want to look stupid.


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