I have spent over 3 years, (Author note: I would spend another 3+ years in retail before joining Bethel but the lessons still ring true.) in two retail positions and multiple “customer service” related situations. Interacting with people is never easy but seeing as God seems to have placed me in my current situation for a while, I thought I might try to list the things I have learned from my life experience thus far.

Maintain consistent expectations of those beneath you. Building trust, charisma, and a sense of vision only works when everybody knows precisely what is expected of them. Life and situations come up, but at the root of it should be unchangeable values about why your family, business, or organization exist and why it matters. Being a part of something that matters, ultimately means that the people understand themselves matter.

Always frame an inquiry about a concern, in the form of a question. Everyone has horror stories they can tell of that malicious person that screwed them over but the reality is that most people are not intent on harm, either to you, the company, or your customers. By posing your concerns as a question, you learn more about the situation without jumping to conclusions and you encourage your employees to think deeper about the situation and learn from their mistakes.

Always assume that you don’t know the whole story. Especially in retail, situations can change multiple times in multiple seconds. With those changes come implications, which some times change as your speaking. Learn to find the teachable moments and never underestimate them.

Challenge those beneath you to exceed their expectations of themselves. Ultimately you desire the best possible performance from your team. The first roadblock though is usually themselves. Do you know your people well enough to know what their biggest fear is and what it might take to overcome? Obviously you have a business to run, but developing your team will ultimately lead to greater returns than invested.

Push your people hard, but defend them to the last breath. There is place to push the people under you to perform, but one of their biggest fears is being left high and dry especially if you change the expectations on them (see above). Consistently defend them when attacked and move the mountains they can’t or shouldn’t have to move and they will follow you anywhere.

Customers are always right, but not always. Customers and paying members are the life blood of your organization (no matter whether they invest monetarily or not). Remember though that just because someone asks for something does not mean, that you should always bend to their desires. The “mob” thinks in lowest common denominator terms. Remember why you exist.

Reality is created, shared, and changeable. Reality is a funny thing, its supposed to be closely related to truth but it tends to have more to do with perception. Your reality should ultimately start with your mission and vision. Then share that vision with the people who ultimately matter, everyone from your employees, to your customers, to your community. Encourage people to join your reality for their benefit, rather than yours. With respect comes trust, with trust comes loyalty, but only through continual relationship.