Mix wha-?

While looking for the voice recorder for my latest project, I saw a notice advertising the arrival of the 2009 catalog of a certain giant furniture store in Mutiara Damansara. I asked one of the staff about it and he pointed to the customer service counter, suggesting that I ask the people there. Not wanting to take a number to ask a quick question since there were no other customers waiting to be served, Chris and I walked up to a queue-free counter. The female staff there was punching some numbers on a calculator. Chris waited for her to look up before saying “Hi, where can we get the 2009 catalog?”

She looked at him without a smile on her face, mumbled something that sounded like ‘Mix FM’ and quickly lowered her gaze back to her calculator, punching the numbers in rather furiously.

We stood there for a good 5 seconds, our mouths gaping slightly, before I finally caught on what she said. I tugged at Chris’s sleeve. When he looked at me with a question on his face, I answered, “mid-September lah!” We left with a quick thanks and suppressed giggles.

I couldn’t help thinking that maybe we had interrupted her work. I mentioned it to Chris and his response was quick: “If she was working on something else and was not supposed to man the customer service counter she shouldn’t have been there in the first place for people to come up to her for customer service, should she?” Quite right, old chap. Quite.

This reminds me of a great advice I got about 9 years ago. I was co-emceeing a company dinner with Imuda, a much-respected Malaysian artist. It was a paying gig (peanuts are still a form of payment, what) and I was rather nervous at the thought of being paired with the famous cartoonist and comedian, who would also be performing sketches and songs during the dinner. Such a humble, down-to-earth person, he was quick to assure me that I was doing all right. The most memorable moment for me was when he saw me going through my notes at the side of the stage, in view of the guests. He took me to one side and suggested that I do all my reviews backstage, away from the audience’s eyes. Only come out in audience’s view when you’re ready to be viewed, he advised. The audience would then see me as how I should be seen; ready and able: the competent and dependable emcee, ready to charm while they enjoy their evening.

I took his advice to heart and have been following it as closely as I can. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When you’re not ready to handle any query from any customer (and potential customers), what’s the purpose of being at a customer service counter?  Take the work inside; to the glass-walled office next to the customer service and returns counter, for instance. No one would knock on the office door and ask about the 2009 calendar there, and you won’t be forced to mumble some illegible words that sound like the name of a radio station.

OK lah! I retract my claws now –

It’s not about being too ‘anal’ or difficult, it’s just part of being aware of our choices and actions. Like the on-stage and off-stage concept of Disneyworld’s employees. We’re visible to everyone when we’re on-stage, see? How would the children react to Goofy and Mickey having a cigarette break with Donald, holding a Budweiser tallboy in their hands? ( or paws.) It’s just the wrong picture. And pictures ARE worth thousands of words, and CAN be faster than speeding bullets – thanks to the Internet.

Therefore, we all need to remember to be aware of our environment. Be ready when we are in the audience’s view, in order to be seen the way we should be seen; competent and dependable. Every little gesture counts. And we can all use all the help we can get, right?

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