Sometimes if you “color it pretty”, you can make something awful seem altogether pleasant. I came across the term “happiness engineer” a week or so ago. Having an engineering background, and a generally positive view of life, I thought the term so idyllic (almost like a Disney Imagineer) that I was immediately intrigued to learn more. When I read the job description, I discovered it really was a technical customer service professional who works to resolve problems people have with technology. Don’t get me wrong. These people are invaluable. Despite having an engineering degree, my stomach turns in knots at the thought of trying to resolve a problem with my WI-FI repeater, or setting up surround sound for a new TV. There are times when the Happiness Engineer resolves your issue and you are grateful for them – you let them know how much you appreciate their help. But there isn’t anything in me that would make me want to be one of them.
When I was in college, I worked part time at a hardware store called, Hechinger’s (similar to Lowe’s or Home Depot). I started as a cashier, but was moved into a customer service role at the service desk – a sort of “happiness engineer” for the home improvement world. (By the way, it is my believe that EVERY person should spend a stint working in the retail or fast food industry just to understand what it’s like so that you can always remember to be nice to those who work in those industries). The problem with such a role in the retail world is that the public is generally not very nice, and the adage “the customer is always right” sometimes can tempt people to take advantage of the situation. Typically, customers who came to the service desk were returning items that either didn’t work, were extra, or that they simply didn’t want anymore, so they are already dissatisfied with something. One evening, an older woman came in and asked for help with her order, and asked if I would accompany her to the “housewares”department. Glad to help, I actually left my post at the service desk (with others there to help other customers) and spent the next hour or so walking around the store with her at her beck and call, helping her get items that she wanted. When she was finally done and checked out, I apologized to my manager because it was unusual to leave the service desk for extended period of time, especially to simply help someone shop. No harm, no foul, he said, glad to help the customer. Until the next day when she returned. Both the manager who was there the evening before and I happened to be on duty again when she came back. To our surprise, she was returning ALL of the items that she bought the night before. She pointed her finger at me and began yelling obscenities at me and threatening me, blaming me for her purchases. It was such a bizzare tirade that the store manager actually asked her to leave the store and not come back. Although I could probably chalk that experience up to an out of the ordinary issue with an older woman perhaps with dementia or mental health issues, it forever colored my desire to work in a customer service role.
As a matter of fact, I used to say that I never wanted to work in either a contract manufacturing role or a customer service role (have you ever heard the adage, “want to make God laugh… tell him your plans”? (topic for another day). Ironically, I have found myself in BOTH of those roles during my career, the past seven years working in a Service Management role for a medical device company.
Happiness engineer.. there are some people you can’t make happy no matter how hard you try. (perhaps that’s also a topic for another day…)
What have been your experiences with “happiness engineers”?
Be Blessed today, my friends,