Whether you are grabbing your morning coffee, checking out at the store or getting the room key at a hotel, you are actively engaging with an individual in customer service.
Perhaps one of the most unavoidable phenomena in the average individual’s lifetime is encountering workers of the customer service industry.
We are greeted with a smile and a warm welcome and sent away with a “have a good day” that leaves the average customer feeling special.
This ability to make us feel special sets the customer service industry apart, and it is a craft familiar to the people who serve the Golden Triangle.
Betty McDowell — affectionately nicknamed Ms. Betty — has been a cook at Sprint Mart since 1990. In her day-to-day interactions, she cooks breakfast and lunch for the customers who come in and out of the store.
McDowell cooks everything from sausage and biscuits to burgers and fries. Although she loves to cook, the people she interacts with are her favorite part of the job.
“My favorite part of the job is getting up and knowing that I am going to meet somebody, and then cooking and hoping everybody will really like it,” McDowell said.
For Ms. Betty, the best part about interacting with customers is seeing them smile and laugh. She takes the time to remember each of her customers’ names and if she cannot, she gives them a nickname of her own creation.
McDowell has spent the last 22 ½ years ensuring her customers feel taken care of and valued.
“I want people to know that I just love them. I love God’s creation and God created us all the same, so I see no difference no matter what. No one is different and no one is smaller in my eyes. We are all the same,” McDowell said.
Just 20 minutes from Sprint Mart, Morgan Dentry goes to work every day in downtown Columbus.
The whining and whistling of the espresso machine can be heard from the moment the door of Coffee House on 5th opens to the public each morning.
Behind the wisps of steamed milk and ground coffee beans, barista Dentry is standing on the other side with a warm greeting. Dentry, originally a native of South Africa, never meets a stranger.
For him, the one-on-one customer interaction is far more than transactional. It is a chance to get to know the people he serves.
“Part of our model is really just to serve coffee and bring out the natural flavors of coffee. So, we just make coffee for people all day long. I love interacting with people,” Dentry said.
Dentry started out working in the school district after he moved to the States but decided to take a job that was less rigorous after a major medical event.
For him, the process is simple.
Greet the customer the second they walk through the door with a smile and take their order. Next, begin making their drink and engage in light conversation. Finally, finish off their order while getting their name.
Not only has Dentry made their morning coffee, he has made an impression.
“I guess you connect to people, you get to know people. People get to know you,” Dentry said. “You ask about their lives, they ask about your lives in turn, and it becomes like a safe haven for people. But it also becomes a place where people just come because the atmosphere is different. There’s something special about the barista that cares about you as opposed to a barista who just makes you drink.”
When Dentry is not talking with his customers, he is making new drink concoctions with his coworkers.
His favorite so far: the cold stone cold brew. It is an Irish cold brew with a toasted marshmallow cold foam with chocolate drizzle.
If one cup of coffee from Coffee House on 5th is not enough to satisfy your caffeine addiction, head on over to Downtown Nutrition right down the street.
Carrie Pannell began operating Downtown Nutrition on Feb. 1 after a long history of customer service work.
“I’ve been in customer service since high school, customer service is all I have ever done,” Pannell said.
Since high school, Pannell has devoted her time to working in the customer service industry. After spending the last 11 years managing at Sprint Mart convenience stores — even managing the store Ms. Betty worked at — she decided to turn her life around and enter the world of nutrition.
Downtown Nutrition sells a variety of products including meal replacement shakes, health shots, merchandise and their most popular item: loaded teas.
With loaded teas being all the rage, there are several nutrition shops around town competing for Pannell’s customers. Her personable customer service sets her apart.
“They could stop at any other nutrition shop, but I feel like they chose to come here because we have been known to have one of the best customer service experiences. I like being really personable with the customers,” Pannell said.
For Panell, building a relationship with her customer takes top priority. She takes the time to have conversations with her customers and form a deep connection. Soon enough, she becomes friends with the people she serves.
“I’ve been able to actually get to know the customers, get to know their ideas, even get to know a little of their personal life from just small conversations about their entire life. You know, whether they have kids or whether they have dogs and I ask them about it,” Pannell said.
Pannell — like McDowell, Dentry and every other individual in customer service — strives to leave a positive influence on the people she encounters. An influence that has been felt far and wide.