The Warhaven City Council Uptown seat opened when Pete Petrovich decided not to run for reelection. Tootie McDaniels ran successfully for the seat without espousing any formal platform or agenda. As a Republican with Libertarian leanings, she was a proponent of small government, yet Warhaven was a trim bureaucracy; there wasn’t much blubber on which to take her fiscal scalpel. Once in office, she saw happenings with new eyes, which occurs to many elected officials — to any of us thrust into new responsibilities in any situation. And fact of leadership that has always been a gift to Warhaven; quickly our leaders learn the arts of compromise and discerning listening as two cornerstones to progress.
As a consumer, Tootie carried palpable indignation at what she perceived as slipping customer service. She could cite many examples of sales clerks who preferred checking their phones or just disappearing instead of assisting the customer. Her friends and neighbors knew never to get her started on the shortcomings of big box stores. She believed Warhaven City Schools did a good job educating students for their futures. But society and culture were changing and it couldn’t all be blamed on the Internet.
As owner of the L & M Merc, she relied on sincere customer service to keep customers coming back. They could easily enough drive to Garfield and not spend their hard-earned dollars in town.
In her public explanation of the program’s essence, Councilor McDaniels made the following statements:
“While I realize the Internet is a big part of everyone’s lives, I believe a worker ought to secure his or her phone in a locker. Employers are not paying John or Jane to text and chat or watch a cute kitty video; they receive a wage — or salary — for work-related activities. This is certainly not simply a problem with hourly workers.”
There was grumbling in the audience.
“If I am a customer and need assistance and the worker is engrossed texting, what message does that send ME? If I sense indignation from that worker for this interruption, that’s a big turn off. Texting can wait for break time. From the bottom to the top of the chain of command, a worker needs to be focused on the needs and goals of the employer. If not, everybody’s value diminishes.”
More grumbling and recrossing of legs.
“Beside business etiquette another component of the training is local geography. Workers who come in regular contact with the public need some understanding of the lay of our land, its major roads, its waterways, AND the recreational options around Warhaven. Have you ever walked into a gas station for directions and the person behind the counter says, ‘Oh, I’m new here. Sorry.’ Simply unacceptable.”
She looks over at Mayor Holman who nods for her to continue.
“From day one a worker needs to accept that he or she is part of a team. If an item is out of stock, the problem shouldn’t be blamed on ‘they,’ but rather, solve the problem with a special order or speak with the manager who can call the warehouse. You get my point. Blaming management without crafting a solution reflects poorly on everyone in that business.”
Sheila smiled. “That’s certainly true.” And she should know, owning two successful businesses in town.
Tootie said, “Communication with the customer begins before the words. Have eye contact with the customer, and when appropriate, show your sense of humor. When every customer is treated as a respected neighbor, business gets done. There should never be the loitering of employee cabal confabs. That speaks to a problem in management.”
Someone in the audience coughed.
Orin asked, “Ms. McDaniels, for the audience, would you highlight the logistics of the trainings?”
“Certainly, your honor. The Quality Customer Service Training Program would consist of two 90-minute sessions for employees, one week apart. The rationale for this timing is that questions will arise, and those can be fully addressed in the second session. Additionally, the chamber will host a one-hour session to apprise employers of concerns for retaining quality workers. For example, what parameters will you establish for appearance and personal hygiene? Consider uniforms or a clothing allowance to guarantee the white shirt and black slacks or the manicure or good dye job. Perhaps dental insurance is a crucial part of your benefits package? And what salary and benefits will retain conscientious employees? What is a living wage? Is health insurance indispensable?”
In bringing her concept before the Warhaven City Council, McDaniels gave public birth to her Quality Customer Service Training Program. Tootie actually wore three hats for the evening, for she was a businesswoman as well as the vice president of the Warhaven Chamber of Commerce. The council chamber was full. She had arm-twisted all chamber board members to show up to show support, both moral support for the idea, but also to offer fiscal support for the program’s inception and ongoing delivery of training services.
Tootie was confident her colleagues on the council would support her efforts.
Mayor Orin Holman opened discussion among the city council prior to public comment, which, he knew, was going to be abundant.
George Ansbach praised the idea and immediately asked, “How can the city respond with in-kind support to keep the program’s budget reasonable?”
Ike Moseseek proposed that a meeting room in the hospital would be one means of saving money.
Sheila Black Petrovich offered to explore grant ideas in order to fund for generous stipends for the attendees.
Public comment ended up resoundingly in favor; the council voted favorably, with Tootie respectfully abstaining, to proceed.