WSF hails pair on front lines for customer service

WSF’s Don Clark greets passengers from the ferry ticket booth. - Carole Bacon/Staff Photo
WSF’s Don Clark greets passengers from the ferry ticket booth.
— image credit: Carole Bacon/Staff Photo

Many of us have used the terms “customer service” before, whether good or bad, when referring to treatment received by a company and its employees.

But do we truly understand the real meaning of it?

There are two employees of the Washington State Ferry (WSF) system that are leading by example every day.

Down at the Southworth ferry dock, when you pass through the booth on the right to pay for passage, you may have run into them.

Don Clark and Joy Simpson work that particular booth on different days and always have something positive to say that will make you smile or even laugh.

WSF Terminal Supervisor Phil Olwell, a 29-year veteran, said, “One of the things that comes to mind is ‘long-term great,’ and that’s what they represent with their consistency and stability. They are rock-solid employees.”

Every Friday, Clark gets out his “TGIF” (Thank God its Friday) sign and hangs it on the booth’s window colored with happy faces even though it’s not the end of his week.

Both Simpson and Clark work four 10-hour shifts every week leaving work in the early morning hours.

WSF Terminal Supervisor Jennie Buswell said, “They develop a rapport with their customers, and it needs to be noted that the majority of the time they work these 10-hour shifts, they are alone. As a female, sometimes things can get a little scary, but she (Simpson) has handled herself very well.”

Clark has worked for WSF since 1990 and Simpson since 1993.

“It is a testimony and a tribute to them as key individuals to our operation,” said Olwell. “We take great pride in both of them as our operation is only as good as our people.”

Simpson makes no secret of her enjoyment talking with customers, asking how their day is going or about what the weather is going to be like.

It’s rare to run across people that seem to take enjoyment in not only their job, but dealing face-to-face with the public everyday, even if the public doesn’t always return the kindness.

“She’s sweet as pie,” said Buswell, “and the way she delivers even bad news, like rate hikes, makes her customers not view it as that bad.”

“Everyone should come and spend the day in a booth with one of our sellers,” Olwell said. “Then they will understand some of what they experience.”

Asked why he’s always so happy, Clark said, “Get up every morning and before you have your first cup of coffee or do anything else, grab the newspaper. Don’t read the front page or the sports section, open the paper up and flip to the obituaries. Scan down the names, and if yours isn’t there, it’s going to be a good day.”

“These two are part of our foundation,” said Olwell, “they are our point people on the front lines exhibiting what customer service is all about.”

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