You’re learning more from your customer service job than you think

Sales associate. Cashier. Barista. Host. Bartender. Waiter. You’re learning skills that are way more beneficial for your resume than you think.


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Saying goodbye to what I thought was going to be my first and last customer service job ever. I was VERY wrong (and very clearly not cute).

At 17 years old, I quit my part-time cashier job at a grocery store because I was finally heading off to University. I told myself that I was never going to need to work a retail job ever again because my degree would serve its purpose.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, shouted God.

For the sake of transparency, I did land a job in my field of study during my first summer of university . However, I did NOT land a job in my second summer of university. And that hurt.

Knowing that I needed money to fund my existence this summer, I applied to as many retail jobs as possible, finally landing a part-time Sales Associate position at Laura Canada.

My first day on the job went how most other first days at retail jobs go; long, boring and tedious. 

As the days went on (and the shame of not landing a full-time summer job wore off), I started to draw connections from my previous degree related jobs to my customer service jobs. Not only did I find that I was interacting with more people, but I was learning how to sell. 

A dream of mine for a while has to been to one day work for myself and focus on building a career around my passion for people, coffee/beer and storytelling. To be able to work for myself, I need to master the “self-pitch”, and I never thought I’d be able to hone that skill in retail.

HERE ARE 4 TANGIBLE SKILLS YOU’RE HONING IN YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE JOB THAT ARE QUIETLY BUILDING YOU UP (and a few tips to help ‘ya out).

1. How to deal with people, regardless if you’re in the mood or not.

Ah, people. We love ’em! And sometimes we don’t! That being said, any job you will have for the rest of your life will require interaction with people to a certain extent. My first media related job was a work-from-home opportunity, which most of you are probably thinking “uM hell YA! WHAT A GIG!” It was cool for the first month, until I realized that the most interaction I had got in a few weeks was over a Google Meeting with my co-workers. Not ideal.

When you’re working in retail though, you have no choice but to be in constant communication with your team and your customers. People from all walks of life are coming in and out of your store, and it’s up to you to gage their presence. Even when you’re having a shitty day, customers are looking to you to for your expertise and your confidence. Whether you realize it or not, you have the upper hand in your store, regardless of the “customer is always right” rule.

You are the one with the product knowledge, you are the one representing the brand and you are the one opening the fitting room doors for them.

If you’ve ever dreamed of working in PR or Communications, you’ll know that the top job requirement shouldn’t be “possess a PR or Communications related degree”, rather “master the ability to slap a smile on ‘ya face and woo the client”.

Being able to talk and find common grounds with people of all backgrounds is a skill that most people without retail experience will never master quicker than you.

Channy’s Retail (Employee) Therapy Tip #1: Find humanity in the “customer”. Sure, customers are in your store to buy something, but that doesn’t mean they suddenly aren’t a person. And vice versa! Remember that this person could be in here for a special occasion, a pick-me up or an outfit for their new job. Putting yourself in their shoes could be the key to making that sale and making your day. Make this customer service job meaningful by starting conversations, asking questions, cracking jokes, remembering their name, suggesting options, etc. Anything that turns this interaction into something less robotic and fake.

2. How to pitch and convert those sales.

Whether you like it or not, working in retail often means meeting sales goals. While I have my reservations about this, I also think it’s important. It’s a taste of what it’s like to run your own business and what it’s like to meet daily goals.

More often than not, getting the sale comes down to that first interaction after customers enter “the decompression zone”, where they can get a feel for clothing, sales and styles. Nobody likes being bombarded with questions and hunted down the second they walk into a store. Imagine walking into a store and the sales associate is watching your feet, waiting for you to step through the decompression zone and all of a sudden yells: “You’ve been…DECOMPRESSED! WHAT’S UP HOW CAN I HELP YOU? NEED A DRESS? WE’VE GOT ‘EM ALL! SHOES? WE DON’T SELL THOSE HERE BUT BOY DO I HAVE A RECOMMENDATION FOR YOU”.

That’s why sales associates usually keep tabs on how long a customer has been in the stores before approaching them.

This is all too similar to what it’s like in the world of advertising. No advertising agency will ever gain a client by yelling at them “I can help you! Let me help you! I’m good at what I do!” Nope.

They send out a media kit with an overall view of their impressions, analytics and core values, finally winning over their clients with a valuable partnership. And if you don’t think that’s exactly what a retail job entails, you’re lyin’ to yourself.

More than that, if you want to sell, girl you better WORK. You need to say the right things, make the right jokes and understand what they’re looking for if you want to get anywhere near that cash register with their items. For example, at the end of one of my shifts at Laura, one group of customers came into the store from Guatemala. Immediately, I knew they were looking for things to bring back home and show off to their friends. After staying an extra hour and a half longer than scheduled, I had made a $1300 sale. Booya, baby.

Channy’s Retail (Employee) Therapy Tip #2: Ask the right questions. Did you know that one of the best ways to convert a sale is to ask a question that requires more than a “yes or no”? Think about it, when someone asks you “do you need any help?”, your automatic response is “Nope! (and also please leave me the fuck alone!)”. But when someone asks you “So what brings you into the store today?” you have no choice but to enter a conversation (unless of course you tell the employee to shove it up their ass).

3. You learn how to work in a team… at all times. 

Don’t confuse this one with #1. Learning to deal with people and working in a team are very different things. Working in a team means you’re aiming to achieve a common goal with your coworkers (ie. sales target). You’re all in this together *cue HSM*.

As a sales associate, you’re essentially in charge of… well… selling. The tricky part is realizing that the other 3 sales associates on the floor are also being paid to do the same thing. So, who gets which customer? Who gets the sale? That all come down to communication. 

Not only are you learning how to organize and establish who would better suit the customers needs, but you’re learning when to give credit when credit is due. If my coworker helped the customer in the fitting room for over thirty minutes and that same customer then asks me for help matching jewellery, it’s only fair to allow that same coworker the opportunity to build on the sale. Boom, communication. 

Working in customer service is about thanking your co-workers for helping you out, congratulating them when they’ve done well and helping each other out along the way. Entering the work force with a work ethic like that is 100% going to make you stand out.

4. It takes serious memorization and time management skills. 

You’ve got three customers in the changing room (Sharon, Jessie and Laurie) and one on the floor (Meghan) who’s still looking at clothes. All of a sudden, Laurie (third door down from the right) is looking for the red polka dot dress in size 12. As you’re walking back to the floor, Sharon and Jessie (who are best friends), just came out to show each other their jeans. They catch you on your way out and ask for your opinion. Meanwhile, Laurie is still waiting on her dress. You tell Sharon and Jessie that they need to size down and tell them “I’ll be right back with a size 6 for you and an 8 for you”. As you’re picking out the newly requested items, Meghan who is still picking out clothes on the floor, asks you if the shirt she’s just picked out applies to the 30% mark down. You’re not sure, so you tell her you need to check. Within 2 minutes, you’ve got the newly requested items for Sharon and Jessie in the fitting rooms, a size 12 for Laurie and a solid answer for Meghan.

That takes efficient time management and memorization skills. Why is that important? Check out the following tip.

Channy’s Retail (Employee) Therapy Tip #3: Remember their name. Retail and food jobs are the perfect opportunities to practice memorizing people’s names. The moment you address someone by more than “the lady with the long black hair, kinda tall?” is the moment you fucking win. Practice great networking and business while on the job, because putting a name to a face is an invaluable skill that you can master in customer service.

So, there ‘ya have it. There’s 4 reasons why your retail/food job is actually beneficial without you even realizing. I’d be lying if I said that I enjoy every minute of working in customer service, but I’d also be lying if I said that I’ve learning nothing from it. There’s no worse feeling than showing up to work in a negative mindset, so go into work and remind yourself that you’re going to get to the places you want to be one day, things just take time.

Love ‘ya dudes,

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Author: Chantal Hermetz

Hey, hi, hello! My name is Chantal Hermetz, writer and creator of We The Story, where I tell stories inspired by the everyday. I'm a 20-year-old happy mess of a human chasing my dream of telling stories through writing and various other creative mediums (finger painting in wet cement is next). More formally, I'm a Media and Digital Communications student at Western University and *often* take part in activities that involve coffee and beer. *Photo credit: @beccaserenaphoto

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