When was the last time you heard someone said something nice to you?
More importantly, when was the last time YOU said something nice to others?
|Start with something simple (Source: Internet)|
One of the beautiful things about being Malaysians is the art of diplomacy and being polite to one another. In fact, the Malay language for example is rich with various styles and proses, the choices of words and phrases and so on. Yes, it is a little weird writing about it on this English-language blog, but that’s not the focus of this confession.
Do you remember in 2006 when Reader’s Digest ranked Malaysians as one of the Least Courteous People? In fact, we ranked 33 out of 35 countries? Again, not too long ago in 2012, Reader’s Digest ranked Kuala Lumpur as one of the Least Courteous Cities ranking 34 out of cities in the world.
|Kindness opens doors (Source: Internet)|
Funny isn’t it? When we’ve been so proud of our Asian cultures, we are in fact, extremely rude.
It’s ironic, since Malaysia actually launched the ‘Kempen Budi Bahasa‘ on January 11th, 2005. That’s a good one year ahead of the survey. Among the issues highlighted by the Department of Information include bad drivers, littering, jumping queues, being rude, vandalism and so on.
|I <Heart> Budi Bahasa (Source: Internet)|
Before we start blaming any particular group on this matter, why don’t we take a step back and look at our own reflection in the mirror? Truth be told, people who don’t know me often think that I’m somewhat cocky and unapproachable. In fact, people even see me as somewhat upper-class, high-maintenance person who only befriends the rich and famous.
What people don’t know is, I come from a middle-class working family; both parents started off working in the government sector before migrating to the private sector. My Dad was in the military, Mum was a nurse. If you visit the kampungs where my parents grew up in, you’ll understand we are not ‘orang senang‘ (privileged people).
But we worked hard, all of us. In fact, I started working on part-time basis for as long as I can remember. I’ve waited tables, washed dishes at restaurants, then I upgraded to sales in department stores. The next semester break, I started working in F & B again, but at a more hip and happening place. Later, back to retails again, also an upgrade, I worked at Nikko Hotel (now known as Intercontinental Hotel) and Starhill Gallery. I’ve even spared some time teaching at tuition centres too.
|Customer service has been a great training ground for me (Source: Internet)|
You know what I noticed, one of the best experiences in life was those moments that I worked on part-time basis, because that’s when I got to see people from all walks of life, from the young to the elderly. The man and the woman and how they acted and reacted towards certain things.
The most important thing was, I learned new skills. Growing up in a rather sheltered family, my Dad didn’t really allow me to mingle around unnecessarily. He often told us, “Your friends are the biggest influence in your early years, so, choose them wisely“. I couldn’t agree more. Only that, at times, my Dad was rather strict, so I mostly spent time indoors watching cartoons and playing ‘batu seremban‘ with my sister.
|Students, spend your semester break working in
customer service and you’ll learn wonders (Source: Internet)
So, when I started working part-time basis, I brushed up my interpersonal skills, particularly how to speak to strangers. I mean, since my part-time jobs were all about communicating with people, my eyes were opened to so many new things.
One of the retail jobs that I had was selling swimwear by Triumph brand back in early 2000s. People will wonder, how on Earth can anyone sell swimwear on a daily basis? Well, my answer is, one can, because one did, yup and that someone was me. As strange as the idea of selling swimwear was at that time, you’d be surprised, people actually bought swimwear on a daily basis. Of course, a leading brand like Triumph needs no introduction. It just needs a little push by the promoter.
|Confidence comes from within (Source: Triumph)|
One of the things that I learned was, how to break the ice with the potential customers. Mind you, I wasn’t selling Iphone or cookies or shoes, I was selling swimwear. Something almost as intimate as the undergarment itself. So, how did I do it?
|How to convince a woman she needs more
than 10 pieces of this? (Source: Triumph)
Well, I guess, I observed promoters around me. When others were busy texting and flirting, most of the time, I just cleaned my station and rearranged the swimwear. Depending on the location of the department stores, I enjoyed hanging out with senior promoters and learned their trade. Since the swimwear section was under the undergarment section, I learned how to approach interested customers nicely.
Usually, promoters will ask, “Can I help you?”.
Under most circumstances, the phrase ‘Can I help you?‘ seems like the most polite thing to say, correct?
Well, the most polite, yes, but not necessarily the most appealing or sell-able thing to say.
One of the things that I learned along the way was, when you ask, “Can I help you?”, people can simply say, “No” which will somewhat end the conversation, because you can’t re-start the conversation once the other party responds with a negative answer. Same goes with, “Would you like to try bla bla bla?”. People can simply say, “No“.
*Note: Read an article by John Hall published on Forbes on June 22nd, 2014 titled ‘The Absolute Worst Question to Ask: How Can I Help You?‘ here.
So, I learned to make a statement, instead of asking a question. I usually started with, “Hello, we’ve got the new Triumph Spring/Summer collection” or “Hello, we’re having a sale now, new items at 10 % discount“.
Surprisingly, starting off with such statements can draw people’s attention. Even if they don’t buy, people generally are inclined to know more about something new and something on sale. In fact, I often encouraged the potential customers to try on the latest bikini or one-piece swimwear. I guess, it has something to do with being polite Asians. Once you get the customers to try the new items, most of them feel obligated to buy. Haha! Call it reverse-psychology. Yes, it’s bad, but it works.
|I can’t say no to PINK! (Source: Triumph)|
I usually put myself in my customers’ shoes, I asked myself questions.
What did I want? Did I really need a new swimwear? Which type would flaunt my figure best? How much was I willing to pay for it?
|Compared to selling a blouse, selling intimates and swimwear
requires a gentler approach (Source: Internet)
Then, everything else would go very smoothly. In fact, once, I managed to sell 5 sets of swimwear to a single client. I remember selling a couple of swimwear to this rather chubby elderly lady who wanted to look good during her vacation. Always put your customer’s great experience before your commission from sales.
My experience selling swimwear has also taught me which swimwear works best underwater, haha! I’m not sure about other ladies out there, but to me, nothing beats the comfort and convenience of a two-piece triangle/halter bikini WITHOUT underwire! In case one feels rather shy, yes, there’s always a one-piece, but make sure you get the size right. Always buy one size smaller, because in water, the material will expand and you don’t want anything to fall off or there will definitely be a FREE-SHOW for the public.
|Halter bikini offers great support, in and out of water (Source: Triumph)|
Triumph brand was founded in Europe in 1886 and had been in the business for more than 100 years. Triumph is recognized as the world-leading producer of lingerie and shape wear, with dedication to its craft, passion for detail and innovation and the commitment to the perfect fit. Triumph products will make you look and feel sensual, stylish and confident.
|Triumph, a woman’s best friend for more than a century (Source: Triumph)|
When I was working in F & B, that was another great experience to me. Yes, it was extremely tiring, but after a while, I looked back and I realized that, there was some sort of personal satisfaction that I have actually been in the business, even for a semester break. Besides, the tips were good. I didn’t even touch my salary, so by the time I started classes again, I had some money when others were waiting for their PTPTN loans. —-> Makcik kayo!!!
Similarly to selling swimwear, making a good introduction is key. Of course, when people sit at the restaurant you work at, you know people want food, but the question is, how far can you influence them?
|Planet Hollywood Kuala Lumpur in its hey days,
or hey nights! (Source: Internet)
Working at a place as hip and happening as Planet Hollywood Kuala Lumpur, one’s salary was determined by the number of points. So, basically the more you make the more you get. Being a hostess, I was responsible to show the customers their tables and introduce the menu and the specials. It was hard-work, yet it was fun because part of our training was to memorize the table numbers (upstairs and downstairs, and outside!) and each menu and its ingredients.
So, how do you approach customers and indirectly influence them to order more?
|Small little things can give you great rewards, try it (Source: Internet)|
Well, this was what I learned.
Once the customers were seated and comfortable, I handed the menu to each of them and introduced myself. Then, I usually started off by saying, “Our Soup of the Day is Potato Soup which you’ll love or you can have some starters to share among you while waiting for the main course“. This was usually the fun part, as usually most of the lunch-crowd come in a group of 3 to 4 pax. The ladies usually wanted to start off with soup while the gentlemen preferred something to munch. So, who won in the end? Usually, it’s me! Haha, because they would usually order both.
Then, only, I’d pass them to the waiter to explain further about the main course. Sometimes, the customers would ask for your recommendations. When some hosts or hostesses think it’d be good to immediately promote the most expensive thing on the menu, DON’T! You don’t want to appear as the vulture, pushing people to buy more.
|Keep customers happy, the tips will keep coming in (Source: Internet)|
As much as you want to earn more, always be sincere to others. There’s no harm in asking if the customer prefers chicken, fish or meat. Don’t worry, this time, they won’t say, “No“. If you’re feeling more daring, just say something witty like, “Yesterday was my chicken day, so, today I’m feeling meat-y, I’ll go for meat” or “Maybe you can order pasta so you have more space for dessert and ice-cream“.
And if sometimes, customers say stuff like, “I can’t make up my mind“. Easy!!! Just tell them something like, “Maybe you can order beef and your friend can order chicken, we’ll give you small plates so that you can share your food. Later, I’ll come back with the desserts menu or recommend some cocktails“.
You’ll be surprised how you’d be rewarded for being nice and polite! Back then at Planet Hollywood, I do mean, ka-chinggg!
Planet Hollywood International ,Inc. a theme restaurant inspired by the popular portrayal of Hollywood was first launched in New York on October 22nd, 1991 with the backing of Hollywood stars Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Kuala Lumpur, Planet Hollywood was established in the Bukit Bintang Golden Triangle, a sister company of Hard Rock Cafe Malaysia. Planet Hollywood was known for its live band performances and American food with generous serving size.
(Source: Wikipedia & Google)
|The Hollywood-themed restaurant chain (Source: Internet)|
So, you see, facing up to Fazura, ooops, I mean customers of various backgrounds and personalities, somehow managed to toughen me up a little. At the same time, it was a very good training for me in my later careers. I learned how to approach strangers, speak to people and towards the end of the day, I learned how to get what I wanted. Of course, here, I only spoke of the good days while working on part-time basis. You probably couldn’t imagine me on a bad day, dealing with extremely difficult customers.
Still, it is the way we speak to others that can later influence their reactions towards us. How we speak also determines the outcome, be it positive or negative.
|Let’s put this into practice, shall we? (Source: Internet)|
Having experienced the situation behind the counter, I understand more that I should also behave well when dealing with promoters, waiters and many more who work in the customer service department. Always remember, we are probably dealing with one customer service personnel in one day, but they are dealing with hundreds of them on a daily basis. So, why don’t we be the GOOD CUSTOMER and brighten their days? After all, they’re human too!
If you notice there is something wrong with your telephone service provider, yes, you may curse and shout and yell all you want, but NEVER over the phone when lodging a complain. You’ll be surprised how they might even play it back among trainers and customer service personnel and label you as the psychotic customer. You don’t want that.
Just the same when some sales people call me, I usually tell them ‘No‘ very politely. Unless they’re the pushy types who just won’t give up, I usually tell them to ‘drop dead‘, haha! Kidding! I usually say, “I’m sorry, I’m in the middle of something, is this necessary?”. There’s nothing wrong with telling them to call you another time. Don’t worry, usually these people have a very long list of clients that they can call, so rest assured they won’t call you anytime soon, haha!
|It takes a very patient person to do this job, so,
why make things hard for them? (Source: Internet)
Although I’m known among friends and acquaintances to be an outspoken and rather loud, especially when I’m in my Mak Hayamz mode, but I’m not usually rude unless someone starts it. To me, respect is earned not demanded for. I’ve met some very rude people for the past few years, surprisingly, people with of senior positions too. Yes, the positions can fool anyone, but towards the end, what will people say in your eulogy at your funeral, haha! Tough?
There are ways to say something to others and that doesn’t mean you can just stomp your foot and make your point. If you feel someone needs guidance, teach him or her with kindness and respect. If you feel someone has done something wrong, show him or her the right way. Screaming, shouting, cursing and blaming, even scrutinizing and being sarcastic will not produce solutions. Instead, they make things worse.
|The ingredients to heal ‘The Rude Syndrome’ perhaps? (Source: Internet)|
Why not say something nice to others? Start small if you’re new to this whole ‘sugar, spice and everything nice‘ department, but be sincere. There’s nothing wrong with telling a colleague what a nice pair of shoes she wears, or if another colleague has eaten or something. And when asking a favour from others, don’t forget to say ‘please‘ and ‘thank you‘. And when people say ‘thank you‘ to you, reply with the same amount of respect, ‘You’re welcome‘ or ‘It’s fine, don’t mention it‘, instead of the typical new-age, tech-savvy ‘OK’ or ‘K’ in messages. Do you know how many people around you find that EXTREMELY ANNOYING?
And you’ll be surprised how a small act of kindness and politeness can change the environment around you. When you start being nice, people will start being nice too. It will start a more positive chain reaction, the type of chain reaction that you’d like at home, your workplace and among your friends.
Let’s face reality, we don’t necessarily like everyone around us. So, instead of gossiping and talking bad about that group of people, just let it go and don’t say anything to them, when you don’t need to. Keep things strictly professional. There’s no need to dwell into emotional chaos, it’ll only hurt yourself.
|Keep calm and focus on professionalism (Source: www.zazzle.com)|
So, have you started your day with a small act of kindness and politeness?
Let’s start mine with this:
Thank you for your support towards The Miss Paris Diaries, I welcome ideas and suggestions. Please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and stay connected.
|Whatever the language is, gratitude is key (Source: Internet)|
See you in the next confession!
All my love, XOXO,