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A Pickle of a performance: Class at Depot focuses on better customer service

Almost 50 local business and church representatives shouted, laughed and cheered their teacher into dancing on a table during a workshop at the Depot last Friday. Give 'em the pickle was sponsored by the McDuffie Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Labor.

"I'll have to admit this was fun," said Sandy Shurling of Wilson Co. "I thought it was going to be boring. But it's fun."

Give 'em the pickle is a customer service training program by Bob Ferrell, the owner of a chain of ice cream parlors from 1963 to 1973, who then became a motivational author and speaker. His pickle philosophy is based on a letter he once received from a disappointed customer who was charged a nickel for an extra pickle slice he requested with his hamburger.

"I was reminded the people who we serve are responsible for our success," the Rev. Ella Mae Samuels said after the workshop. "Even in the setting of being a minister. If we don't treat the lay people and volunteers as though they are important, then they'll have us standing in the pulpit all by ourselves."

The workshop was presented by Bob Roesch, the senior training coordinator for the Georgia Department of Labor. Mr. Roesch showed three videos and gave a rousing, interactive speech on each topic - and What's your pickle?

"I truly think each and every one of y'all are leaders, whether you work for somebody or not," Mr. Roesch said.

The true measure of a leader is the number of people they serve, according to Mr. Roesch. Whether referring to serving a customer, boss, co-worker or employer, the message was the same: forget self and focus on others, choose a positive attitude, always do the right thing and have fun.

"What book or manual says you can't have fun at work?" Mr. Roesch said. "Playful, positive work creates productivity."

The group had more than enough chances to practice what they learned. Formed into teams to study summaries, they ended up having pep-rally style cheering contests and breaking out into spontaneous dancing. When Mr. Roesch teasingly said he would dance on the table if it would help them learn the lesson, they didn't let him hear the end of it until he fulfilled his promise.

"We need to do it some more," said Michelle Collins, the administrator of Springfield Baptist Church. "Everybody needs to come do it."

Interspersed throughout the program were some serious elements, including instilling confidence in employees, integrity and the effects of a negative attitude.

Chamber Director Carolyn Gilbert said the workshop was part of the Chamber's entrepreneur readiness program. She said the pickle workshop is the result of a survey the COC did of local businesses that showed areas needing improvement were marketing and customer service. Mr. Ferrell's book is now available for business members to check out from the COC library at the Depot. For more information, call 706-597-1000.

Web posted on Friday, November 02, 2007

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