Sunday, March 23, 2014

5 Things I Learned in Customer Service

I have heard it said many times that we humans are social creatures.  We rely upon one another for fulfillment emotionally, but we also rely upon one another in the business realm. When one deals with the public and the needs of the public regularly, we refer to this as customer service.  Customer service gets a bad rep, and it is also considered a very low-end job, serving others the basics. 

Yet, after many years in customer service, I firmly believe that every individual should experience what it is like to serve coffee, to make sandwiches, to balance all of the tasks and duties required of customer service positions.  Everyone should know what its like to serve the public at 5 in the morning on a rainy or snowy Monday, when every single person is grumpy, bitter to be awake and going to work again.  Everyone should know what it is like to get yelled at for no reason.  Everyone should know what it is like to clean toilets and pick up disrespectful messes. 

Customer services has taught me many things, but, these five stand out the most:

1.     Just Say Yes

While this was my Starbucks district’s slogan, it really comes down to the heart of where customer service is now.  Just say yes.  Give them literally everything they want and ask for.  And do it with a smile. 

Boy does that take self-control!  When you’re being shushed by a person ordering while on their phone, it takes everything you have no to yell in their face and say come back when you’re ready. 

It makes me wonder, though, is just saying yes the right thing to do?  It seems that it continues and perpetuates the entitlement and the disrespect of customer servants as non-humans, but rather robots or individuals with no personhood or story or importance.  Is this really where we want to be as a culture?

2.     Relationships Matter

A relationship with the customer is the most crucial aspect of business and customer service.  After all, people can buy their own coffee and make it at home, but, at Starbucks, they get waited on hand and foot with a smile.  And they come back for that every single day. 

Relationships keep them coming back.  Relationships with customers paid my rent.  Got me tips to put gas in my car.  Relationships made me friends, got me connections, and encouraged me that I was meant for more in this world than relationships with people I serve daily at a coffee shop.  What kind of relationships are these?  Where customers know little to nothing about me, yet I listen to their morning whining and their evening tired proclamations?  Is this really a relationship?  Or are customer services representatives simply emotional dumping grounds?

Relationships matter in all aspects of life.  We humans are social beings, after all, right?  I tried to cultivate real relationships with customers.  But in the end, I’m left wondering, was it real?

3.     Give Everything You’ve Got

In customer service, you’re expected to give everything.  Whether the demands come from your boss, the higher ups in the corporation, or the customers themselves, you have to be on – constantly.  Especially when you don’t feel like it.

You’re asked to give and give and give.  Even when you don’t feel like it, you slap on a smile and a howdy-do that even frightens you at how genuine it sounds.  At Starbucks, we are asked to give “legendary” customer service.  Legendary.  As in it lives on.  And gets talked about after the customers leave and go back to their own lives.  I hope everything that I gave and how I made people feel lives on in the stores where I have worked.  I guess that’s all one can hope for.

4.     Be Yourself

It’s obvious when you’re a fake, and you work in customer service.  I’ve actually been frightened by baristas or managers who are basically different people at work and outside of work.  Even if you’re shy or weird, you have to be you. 

Starbucks drew me outside of myself.  It pushed me to talk to people I would not necessarily have talked to on my own.  And like it or not, I was me.  I was quirky.  I was funny.  I was chatty.  I was real.  People saw me on good days and bad days.  Days when it was really hard to wake up at 4:07am and days when I popped out of bed like a pop tart. 

There is beauty in being yourself that I learned during my time in customer service.  Because everyone has a place.  Everyone fits somewhere.  Some places better than others.  I gained confidence exponentially in the past few years.  And for that I am extremely grateful.  Even though everyone is replaceable in customer service, people are still good and have value and are beautiful and giving at the end of the day.  And that is magical.

5.     Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t be afraid of anything.  Of anyone.  Of any dream that you have.  Sure it’s scary, but don’t be paralyzed by it. 

Sure I lost a lot of sleep and worked long and weird hours at Starbucks.  Sure I got anxiety trying to constantly meet the needs of an ever-changing company trying to compete in a changing market.  Sure I felt underappreciated and underpaid.  That’s customer service. 

But it wasn’t my dream.  It’s okay if someone has a dream to have their own Starbucks and be a part of that bigger community.  You can change lives that way – one cup at a time.  But it wasn’t my dream.  And now I have the confidence to follow my dream.  And three stores cheering me on – along with a whole family of partners who believe in me and what the path holds for me. 

For that, I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Five Things I Learned Last Year

I have been longing to write, but I have not been sure what I should write about.  And then it hit me!  I am too focused on what I SHOULD be writing about rather than what I WANT to write about or what my heart needs to feel and release.  

The past few weeks have revealed to me just how blessed I am.  There are several people who love and care for me.  I have a wonderful apartment.  I love living in California.  I do more of the things that I love.  I am alive.  And it is good.  

But what have I learned in the past year that I want to take with me into the new year, into this new chapter, new portion, new me?

1. Confidence of Self

I learned that I am good, whole, constantly renewed.  I learned that I am worth something, and sharing myself with others has led to good things and beautiful relationships.  I deserve to live the life of my dreams, and I am taking steps to do that!

2. Do What You Love

From my confidence, I know that taking caring of me is crucial, especially doing more of the things that I love that make my heart swell and excited for life and giving and love.

3. Relax

Relaxation and play is so important to our overall health as humans.  NEVER underestimate it or guilt yourself for partaking in it.

4. Make Good Choices

What I do today reveals who I will be tomorrow.  And today I choose to eat well, exercise, go outside, read, think, plan, meditate.

5. Community Is Crucial

Having people to support you along your journey is very important, especially as a young person.  Moving to the other end of the country where I only knew one person really revealed to me how much we as humans need one another to encourage, inspire, and uplift us.  I hope to be that for those around me every single day.

May your year be ever focused on the good, the beautiful, the best things to make you the best version of yourself.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cookies and Butterflies

My life has an extreme sense of irony, but I have come to love it.  The experiences I have had continue to teach me so much about myself and the world.

Today I was having brunch with a dear friend of mine, and the most precious things happened to the two of us.  Emily had an empty mug on a saucer upside down that was given to her by the restaurant to serve herself the nectar of the gods (a.k.a. coffee).  When she flipped up the mug to go fill it, she discovered two sugar cookies sitting there looking up at her like two little eyes.  She squealed with excitement and joy.  For two little cookies.  The joy and laughter that ensued was precious.  There are moments in life when you wish that someone was videotaping, and that was an occurrence that I will cherish for some time.

Here is my end of the tale.  We were nestled into a table outside on this windy, overcast morning, and I took my turn squealing like a child with excitement over a butterfly.  I mean I was excited!  I love butterflies, and I have loved them since childhood.  Their gracefulness, their delicate wings, their stunning colors.  Only, after a second look, it wasn't a butterfly after all.  It was a dead leaf.  I kid you not.  I got ridiculously excited over a dead leaf floating down through the air.  Yet, I was just as happy and giggly as Emily had been upon seeing her set of cookies.

I guess that's one of those funny things about life.  I may not have seen two cookies on my plate, but boy I got excited over a dead leaf that I thought was a butterfly in hopes of finding something beautiful in my day.  Maybe that is the lesson - if you want to see and feel beauty all around you, it doesn't matter what form it is in.  It just has to mean something to you!  I make the meaning in the dead leaves.  I make the meaning in a dirty white care with fingerprints all over it.  I make the meaning of my life.  And I'm determined to make it good!

Friday, January 3, 2014


I'm all about the new beginnings.  The new opportunities to leap, search, grow.  It's pretty intoxicating when you accomplish a change or notice a difference in yourself and your quality of life.  I want that for myself in this new year, 2014.

I want one main thing for myself this year, though, to learn to relax.  And enjoy relaxing.  I don't want to get caught up in guilt for sitting down and feeding my soul with a good book or that sinking feeling while I'm painting that I should be doing something else.  Those things cannot wait.  My heart and mind and soul and life cannot wait.

Each year of my life I have striven to be better, stronger, smarter, etc.  I work so hard in many areas of my life, except for relaxation.  The phrase, "Work hard, play hard" has never applied to me.  I get so worked up in being perfect as I do it all, too, that I do not even enjoy much in my life.  I am so worried and stressed and anxious about doing it all, doing it perfectly, and doing it best that I have lost that sense of awe for the world, for the beautiful people in my life, and for the little things.  I want to let it all go and relax and enjoy what I have around me.

Even as I sat down to write this blog post, I thought about writing it with letters uncapitalized and without punctuation, because I am so often concerned with those things.  But I couldn't.  All I could do was not capitalize the title of this post.  Even that is a small victory for me.  But I did it, and I'm letting it go and laughing that this is really all so hard for me.  I hope one day that I look back on this year with gratitude for what I have and a cultivated sense of relaxation.

Happy 2014 to us all!

I'm off the relax.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

I'm a Writer

I'm a writer.  It's taken me nearly two decades to realize it, but it's the truth.  There's no avoiding it.  Writing has always been in my heart, but the thing is that it comes and goes with me.  I have filled my life with many things to pay the bills, to do what I think needs to be done for my career path, but I often forget about what I truly want - what I'm truly drawn to: writing.

It's pretty amazing how we humans will actually AVOID that which we enjoy!  We convince ourselves that we don't have time or energy for those things, when, in fact, they would actually energize us and invigorate us to think and create and thrive as individuals.  

So why don't I do more of this writing stuff?  After reflection, I noted how much writing demands of your genuine self.  During the past few years, as I have continued to discover crucial and beautiful things about myself, I had no idea what even to write.  I did not know how to write as the Anna that I was working to know and love.  That's the difference, the key to it all now is that I know me.  I know Anna, and I can write as her.

There is power in knowing me, writing as me, and living as me.  And there is power in you, too.

Happy New Year from a writer!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Obligatory Gratitude Reflection and Mission Statement

Let's be honest - there are days when feeling grateful are much easier than others.  When it's sunny outside, it's easy to smile and go for a walk.  When it's rainy, depending on the other circumstances of life and happenings of the day, it's easy to curse and forget all of the good things around us.

I want to be grateful AND express it every day of the year!

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I discovered a series of videos on YouTube by Soulpancake called The Science of Happiness.  (If you've never seen these videos or heard of Soulpancake, I highly recommend watching and exploring their page.)  I happened upon a video where several people are asked to write down a person that they are very grateful for and describe that person and why they are thankful, then they are encouraged to call that person and read to them what they wrote.  Let the tears ensue.  At the end of the video, the commentator noted that those who express gratitude experience it more deeply and report feeling happier.  It's that simple, but it takes a teeny tiny bit of effort to reap incredible benefits.  Everyone is looking for happiness, right?

It's easy to blame our tendencies to want more, have more, do more, and be more on a fast-paced culture and environment, but, really, the blame falls on us for accepting that as a healthy and good lifestyle and not dreaming of a happier, more stress-free, balanced way of thriving as human beings.

As 2014 draws nearer and I reflect upon this last year, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness of all of the goods things, people, and experiences that I have had.  

Recently, I began reading a book called I am Malala, and as I read about this young girl's journey to stand up for women's education in Pakistan and how she was shot for it, I have realized all over again how thankful I am for my educational opportunities and my choice to have a career in the field of education.  I was basically handed an education here in America, where Malala describes her fight for education for herself and her friends, making them ultimately more grateful for their books, their teachers, and their schooling.  I want to be that in awe of my education and my life.  I want to advocate for others the way that she does.  I want to be a force to be reckoned with.  And I think I'm in the making to become one.

Having studied schools and their mission statements, I decided that I wanted to have a mission statement for my life and the journey that I am on to be a leader in higher education and to influence the lives of those around me.

I will be FIVE things:

Educator - I will teach those around me at every opportunity that I can, meeting them at their developmental stage and showing them that it is okay to make mistakes.
Speaker - I will speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves or who are afraid to, guiding others to gain the skills to speak for themselves and know that they are worth being heard. 
Thinker - I will continuously think, learn, and observe the world around me so that I can best help and educate others to meet the needs of the ever-changing world and job market.  I will show others that they can think for themselves, create, and participate in education and the world around them
Reader - I will read to open my mind, my heart, and my soul to everyone that I meet.  I will read to know myself and others so that I can help others more effectively and efficiently.
Advocate - I will advocate for every single individual in my life and their equitable rights to education, and thus, happiness.  I will advocate for social justice issues in my community, as well.

There has never been a time in my life where I have known more who I am or what I want to do.  Maybe I don't know the exact job that I want, but I know that I want to shape and form those around me, while caring for myself.  And that I am eternally grateful for.

Thank you for following me and accompanying me on this journey, as I continue to reveal myself and be vulnerable and be free to be me in a newer and more bold way than I have ever felt before.

Thank you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Blog, Revisited

So here's the deal.  I've tried countless times to blog and blog well.  To reinvent this sad, little blog, and I have failed.  Each and every time.  

When I realized that today, I began to think about why that may be.  I realized something really powerful that many 20-somethings are struggling with: I wasn't being myself.  I was wandering around figuring it out, though.  And when I finally found it, I had to take some time to process and digest what I found.  

Sometimes life isn't as beautiful or perfect as I thought it would be or should be, and I had to accept that fact and learn to live anyways.  And that's really what this journey is all about.  I could let a million things keep me from being the best Anna or living the life of my dreams, and, trust me, I have been letting anything and everything control me and the path that I have taken.  

On the other hand, this time of my life is about me.  About my discovery, joy, simplicity, and a flourishing into me, Anna Christine.  

And let me tell you, I am proud of me.  Although, I kind of choke on the words as they go down.  But I'm learning to be proud of me, and that is the real truth.  That is the real message of my life and where I am.  That is really what I want to write about.  

In this blog, you may find things that you don't like down the road, but, maybe, just maybe, give me a chance.  God knows I had to give myself a chance.  And what I found afterall was something really worthwhile and beautiful worth expressing and writing about.  

Finding my voice after all these years?  Priceless.