The Smile Teacher

I grew up in a family business and learned pretty early how to do customer service. My Pop had my sister and I working the cigarette counter at our drug store as soon as we could add and subtract and were tall enough see over the counter. Young. He knew we could take care of the customers well. (We were also free labor.) My Dad and Granddad prided themselves on knowing the neighborhood people, filling their prescriptions, giving health advice, listening, serving a good cup of coffee, opening early and staying open late. They knew their customers and took care of them. It isn’t a surprise I ended up in the service industry.

Today my job is to teach service.  And this is going to sound ridiculous, but this year it is all about teaching people to smile. Ridiculous because smiling doesn’t seem like that hard of a thing to do. But when you start talking about smiling to people, in my case, people who work in ice cream shops, they generally look at you like you have completely lost your marbles. They don’t always know that they don’t smile and they don’t understand why it is important.  I sometimes make them practice their own smiles-to feel what it feels like.  They think I am crazy when I do that.  I explain that I am not asking them to walk around with a smile just plastered to their face but that I want them to start every customer interaction with a smile.  I tell them that a smile makes you look friendly and welcoming and that is good for business but I also tell them they will actually feel happier themselves, if they smile more.  Smiling doesn’t seem like a comfortable face position for some of the people who work for us and it actually seems like a smile isn’t a regular thing for a lot of people.

So I have smiling on the brain and I am noticing the smile void but the big smilers are also standing out. The kid at the pet store, a lawyer at my office building, a nurse at my doc’s office, the new franchisees I am teaching this week.   The smilers are radiant and they stick with you and I want to ask them why they smile but I am afraid they are going to think I am a serious freak, so I don’t.  So I think about why I smile and it is because I get something in return. But if you don’t need or want or care about getting a good feeling in return, then that won’t be your motivation.  This is a big challenge, that shouldn’t be so huge, but is, this smile thing.




Author: Eileen O'Toole

A quick service restaurant vet who loves food, teaching, learning and being a single Mom. Believes that waking up each day with a positive attitude and a smile on your face can change the world.

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