To touch or not to touch?
When I was running a customer service workshop recently I was
asked by a delegate if it was ok to touch a customer. Now clearly he didn’t mean
in a ‘current news scandal’ kinda way but it was a question that, whilst I
knew exactly what he meant, posed some debate among the group.
I am not a particularly tactile person but when I think
back to my restaurant days, and actually even now when I’m in a service environment,
I do / did touch customers on the arm when joking with them, sympathising with them
or trying to calm them down (when we had made an #EpicFail). Or on the small of
their backs if I want them to move safely away from a tray of drinks.
The team in my local curry house insist on shaking their
customers hands on entering and leaving the restaurant. Although it felt a bit weird
/ false at first I have ‘embraced it’ and now actually feel a bit snubbed if I don’t
have a hand offered to me. BUT, and I have discussed this at length with my
other-half, we have concluded that if we walked into any other restaurant in
town where this happened it would feel inappropriate! Bizarre!?
I don’t recall any customers recoiling from me when I ‘touched
them’ but then I wonder if I did make some people feel uncomfortable. I guess
the fine line is judging the appropriateness of making physical contact and having
the self-awareness to assess if the customer is responding in a favourable way.
But then here lies the crux of it: When many waiting staff are barley trained
in basic customer service standards; how can we be sure that they are even self-aware
enough to realise that they could be invading personal space never-mind, using
to their advantage, the subtle nuances of unconscious body language?!
So I would be interested to know your views: Should waiting
staff touch customers at all? Even, just a hand-shake?