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Who’s Teaching Who Here? Thoughts from a Professional Trainer on the Road

Donna Kopf CSE Customer Service Trainer

“What day is it? Tuesday? Wednesday? Am I in New Jersey or New York? Yesterday I was in New Jersey, so today I must be in New York! That’s it!”  

Sometimes the life of a professional trainer on the road becomes one big blurred view of the calendar. I’ve heard so many times in the past how hard it is to deal, and work, with the publicpeople are never satisfied and always want to complain.  After years as a trainer who works with the public on a daily basis, I now have a vastly different view of the customer experience and how much of an impact our actions affect the lives of others.  That’s what I love about my job. Hence, I would like to share my thoughts on the many reasons why I love what I do and how lucky I am to meet a world of people bigger than the confines of town I live in.  

It was later in the evening as I sat in one of the amazing places to eat in JFK airport.  I had just finished training over 150 customer service professionals over the course of two days.  I had a few hours to kill before my flight so I ordered some food and prepared to sit back and wind down. Recognizing me from class, a few of the servers came over to say “Hi”. They told me they enjoyed the class and thanked me for coming to JFK and sharing my knowledge with them. And as if I had l known them all for years and years, they each began to share their knowledge and lives with me.  

We spoke of their journeys to America and how amazed and lucky they felt to be working and living in New York. We spoke of the families they left at home, even the arranged marriage for one young gentleman server who hadn’t even met his new wife in person yet.  He was very happy and excited to be going home in December to meet her. I listened intently to each word they spoke and tried to picture in my mind what their lives were like.  I devoured their stories as I created pictures in my mind of their countries and cultures.  Before I knew it, a couple on a vacation from their homeland of Finland joined our history lesson for the day.  They were celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss. The hours flew by in a matter of moments.  

Just then, as if I was watching this interaction on some reality TV series,  it dawned on me...People thank me for doing what I do: for teaching class, facilitating discussions and giving my time and energy to people I don’t really know.  But I should be the one thanking them.  I know more about Finland, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh than I ever thought possible from that brief moment in JFK. In the course of two hours, my new-found friends had given me a very special gift; the gift of themselves. They opened my lens to view new ideas and cultures in a whole new way.  I suddenly forget about the mundane issues that plague me daily and I celebrated life.

They taught me.  

In the next few weeks those people and their stories have stayed with me. These gifts get bigger and larger each time I speak to someone newNewark, Miami, Boston, Delaware. Different places, different people, different stories but the same gift.  My facilitation skills have been enriched in ways I never knew possible.  See, as a customer service trainer, most people think we are here to raise satisfaction scores, and to teach people to smile and say thank you. Yet, I choose to believe we are here to make seemingly unimportant moments IMPORTANT, to open our lens a bit more than it currently is, to understand that differences aren’t always good or bad...sometimes they’re just different, to truly see things outside the box of our own thoughts and perceptions and ideas of what is “normal”, to realize that sometimes, you’re the one being taught...

So as I travel from city to city, day to day, to conduct training session after training session, educating audiences on the benefits and methods of greeting, anticipating needs, thanking and selling, I’m enriched by the experiences and lessons the audience gives back to me. Learning, and teaching, is a two way street and while I’m lucky enough to be a part of it as my job, it’s a key lesson for us all...if we take that moment to listen.  

Donna manages CSE’s Training and Consulting Team; supporting both team members and clients with her expertise.  She keeps a close tie with the field by servicing a handful of clients directly.  Her energy and ability to relate to people at any level of the organization has earned her trust and praise from co-workers and clients alike.  It is no wonder that she is interested in—and learns so much—from those around her!

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