Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Constituent Services vs. Customer Service


Throughout the summer, I have managed to stay very busy by taking on two positions: my congressional internship with Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA-13) and my part-time job as customer service associate with JCPenney. While both have its benefits and challenges, as one may suspect, they have some differences as well.

Constituent Services vs. Customer Service

In the congressional district office, I deal with constituents. That’s just a fancy word for people that are represented by the Congressman. In the JCPenney women’s shoe department, I deal with customers. That’s just a fancy word for people who keep the business in business. Anyways, my job at both is to ensure that I can satisfy the customers/constituents. Although grabbing a size 8 shoe for a customer is a little different than researching a Social Security issue for a constituent, I try my best at each job to help as much as I can.

Angry Constituents vs. Angry Customers

Not everyone is perfect. Not every business is perfect either. And no government agency in the history of mankind has ever been perfect (I can say this with confidence, just look at Congress’s 17% approval rating). So it goes without saying that I experience plenty of unhappy visitors/callers at each job. Though each angry person comes in with the same level of displeasure and ferocity, it is not always warranted. Case in point: a customer that is angry about not receiving the 10% discount is probably not in a position to lose as much as a war veteran who is facing an insurmountable hospital bill that the VA won’t cover. Another case in point: a customer who can’t find the shoe she wants in her size is probably not in as much emotional turmoil as a man who can’t seem to bring his loved ones over to the US from a dangerous country.

Thank you for calling…..

While I answer significantly more phone calls during the internship, I still have the occasional call during my shifts at JCPenney. Although the salutations are different when I answer the call, I still have to keep the same etiquette to ensure that I immediately gain the trust and respect of the caller. As the saying goes, you only get one first impression, and I’m a firm believer in first impressions over phone calls as well. And yes, if you’re wondering if I have ever picked up the phone at JCPenney answering: “Thank you for calling the Office of Congressman Brendan Boyle,” I unfortunately have (at the cost of extreme confusion for the caller I’m sure).

Organizational Structure

Both institutions gained my attention and interest as an employee because I respected the values that they represented. For the Congressman, it was the unremitting desire to help the constituency and bolster the middle class and for JCPenney, it was the golden rule on which founder James Cash Penney started the company. As one can imagine, however, both organizations are very different and I experience those differences everyday with the workplace atmosphere. Although Congressman Boyle is a freshman in the US House, he has already led an extremely successful career. I can always sense a feeling of optimism when discussing him in the office. While JCPenney is a corporation that garners around $12 billion in revenue each year, it’s not the profitable company that it used to be. Since the company hit its all time high $85/share point in 2007, it’s been in a steady decline. The hiring of former Apple executive Ron Johnson turned out to be a tragic mistake as his drastic changes to the company led the company’s stocks to plunge. I can definitely attest to the fact that the corporation’s poor financial performance is reflected in the store’s daily operations. The store’s inability to meet its daily goals on a regular basis really sets a somewhat depressing tone for the employees. However, I definitely give my managers credit as they always seem to be working their tails off to better the company. Nonetheless, working at JCPenney has a “we gotta catch up” tone while working in the Congressman’s office has a “we’re doing a good job, let’s keep doing it” tone.


Regardless of the similarities and differences that each job presents, I enjoy coming to work each and every day. Both provide me with invaluable experiences that I know will help further my professional skills. While I only have a couple weeks left at each job, I plan to make the most of the limited time by continuing to give my full effort.


*Any opinions or statements in this post do not represent the views of the Office of Congressman Boyle nor the JCPenney Corporation. All opinions or statements are solely mine.*