PARIS – Residents of the Oxford Hills and the surrounding area might find that they receive friendlier, more professional service the next time they visit their local transfer station.

Twenty employees and managers of transfer stations attended a class Monday in customer service at the Western Maine University and Community College Center, where they discussed not only how to deal with difficult customers, but how to keep difficult situations from arising.

The class was organized by Ray Garnett, newly elected president of the Norway/ Paris Solid Waste Board of Directors, at the suggestion of transfer station employee Warren Sessions. It was attended by employees of Bethel, Waterford, Norway, Sabattus and Greenwood transfer stations.

Central Maine Community College’s Western Maine director Marc Gosselin and instructor James Handy visited the Norway/Paris facility to pinpoint the needs of transfer station employees. They then tailored the class to those aspects of customer service that are unique to transfer stations.

One of those is that local transfer stations don’t have competition. Employees don’t have to worry about customer loyalty because, as Handy said, “There’s no place else to go.” Because customers have no other alternative, he added, “We want them to be happy customers.”

“Customer service is customer service,” Handy told the class. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re recycling plastic bottles or you’re selling soda.” Many of the same rules must be observed, regardless of the business. Handy stressed greeting customers, using friendly body language, and treating every customer the same.

NPSW Manager Alison McCrady asked Handy how to deal with customers who don’t follow the sorting and recycling rules. “Sometimes you explain things to people and they turn around and do the exact thing you asked them not to do,” she said. “I wonder, Did I not explain correctly or do they just not care?”

People at the class recalled tales of people leaving their recyclables for transfer station employees to sort. Other times, they said, people chatting on a cell phone have simply held a bag of trash out the car window and waited for an employee to take it. Some transfer station customers have threatened to throw trash in the woods rather than pay fines for bulky waste or white goods.

Handy suggested communication as a means to solve these problems. Explaining why transfer stations have the rules they do and even informing customers of the fines for littering has helped many of the employees at the class.

“If they’re treated well, even though you’re the only show in town, you’ll have better compliance,” Handy said.

Western Maine University and Community College Center offers several employee training courses tailored to individual businesses, some for college credit. Gosselin said that the college has developed classes for Waterford Homes and, before it moved into its current location, for C.N. Brown.

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