Customer Service is People Service
Excellence in customer service happens effortlessly when it comes from deep inside of you out of deep caring and respect for the needs of another person. It’s natural, really. All of us have it. When you approach customer service in this way, nothing seems impossible because your desire to treat someone else well is paramount. You access strength to perform any task, especially when it’s done to make life easier for another person. Everyone has this ability.
Helping a woman lift a case of water into her grocery cart, jump starting a stalled car or spending time in conversation with a homeless person are acts of being in the moment to honor and respect that person. Of course, I must continue to dig deep to find mechanisms and triggers that cause this type of behavior. Then we can duplicate it.
As an example, I walked through a grocery store the other day and noticed something. Each time I pass a person (whatever their station in life), I am attentive and respectful of their presence. In that moment, there is an opportunity to honor who they are – to give something.
From deep inside, I want to be someone who makes them breathe easier. If there is no eye contact, then so be it – there is no interaction. But, if there is eye contact, I smile. It’s that moment of ‘presence’ that brings the respect from deep within.
When I see an elderly woman struggling with a case of water, I carry it to her shopping cart. If she needs help to her car, I am there. I don’t even work at the store. If I am dressed professionally, a man might ask where the canned prunes are. I do my best to show him – or I help find a store employee. I have a passion for helping people.
It happens all day, every day. If I had a nickel…
One New York City Block
I remember walking in New York City one cold and very windy day in January where I experienced three opportunities within about three minutes. A woman was walking out of a door to the street with two puppies in her arms. The wind kept blowing the door back on her. As effortlessly as breathing, I seamlessly held the door open so she could exit. She didn’t notice me nor did she offer a thank you. I was happy though.
As I continued walking there was woman taking bags out of the back of a taxi – four heavy bags of luggage. I asked, “would you like help?” She smiled so nicely and said, “yes!” I walked each of the bags into the bottom floor and onto the elevator. She was on her own from there.
The next one was a homeless man who was asking for a dollar – eye contact, respect.
Stranded on a Phoenix Freeway
The other day here in Phoenix, I was driving north on highway 17. There was an old pickup truck broken down. I saw a man further ahead walking with a propane tank. That’s odd. I tapped the brakes. A car was behind me. I could not get over to the right. As I traveled further another half-mile, I thought of pulling into the breakdown lane. Then backing my car up to see if he needed a ride.
I reached the exit still thinking that I wanted to help, feeling remorse for a missed opportunity. The man needed someone to help, I thought, ‘why didn’t anyone else offer to help him?’ I was really bothered. Of course, I had my own destination, my own goals and places to be at that moment. But this guy was walking with a propane tank down the freeway!
Oh well. I guess someone else would help him.
As I approached my destination, I said, “screw it.” I drove back on the the freeway, then drove south one exit. Then I got off the exit to return back onto the road driving north. Would someone have picked him up? How far north would he be? If someone else had picked him up, that would be a good thing. Then, I would feel good that at least I tried.
What did I find out? Sure enough, he was still walking. I drove by him slowly and asked, “do you need a ride? He said ever so quickly, “yes, I would love one.” A cool guy.
Car after car drove by him – no one helped him when he obviously needed it. Nonetheless, I was able and willing. I learned that his truck ran on propane. The first gas station didn’t have propane. The clerks at the station didn’t know where to get it. After we both searched on our phones, we found there was a station south one exit. So, I gave him a ride, he filled up and then I brought him back to his truck. A kind goodbye and I was back to do the work I had scheduled.
In life, we become ‘so engaged’ with our own tasks at hand, that we can become coarse. People with dead batteries, homeless people asking for money, homeless children with whom that I work and many others, I try to notice. I try to treat that moment with respect. Without (at all) trying to sound spiritual, I am in the moment when with a person as it relates to customer service – and life!
Upset Woman with her Hood Up
One final story before I wrap this up. It was about 2:00pm on a Tuesday. I hadn’t eaten anything yet that day. I was feeling very hungry. I popped into a Jersey Mike’s Subs shop. As I walked in, there was a car with its hood up. I didn’t take much notice as I was hungry as a horse. But, I certainly assumed that the car was taken care of since it was smack dab in front of this busy sub shop. It was a woman standing there with many men walking in and out of the store. Surely she was taken care of, I thought.
But, as I ate, she was still there, hood up and angry scowl. I was facing the door beginning to think that I want to just go out and tell the woman that I was eating (and at this point, I saw that she had a child in the back seat). Or I thought to say something to make her feel at ease. I watched person after person walk out the door (and another walk in like I did) without noticing her or making eye contact. She was stranded.
I ate my sub in three bites then walked out still chewing my food. I smiled and said, “I know nothing about cars, but I can at least provide moral support.” She said that she needed jumper cables. I thought, “that’s it?” Well, that was simple. But, I also knew that my girlfriend had ‘cleaned my car’ so when that happens certain things may be missing. I asked the broken down motorist if anyone had helped her yet? She said that the complex security guard went to check for jumper cables. Other than that, people just walked past.
My car was on the other side of the plaza, so I ran over to check. Sure enough, the cables were not there. The woman mentioned that she had called her insurance company to help her. While, that was a relief, I still drove to my house to see if my jumper cables were there. They were. I grabbed the jumper cables and drove back to the shopping plaza thinking there was NO WAY that the woman would still be there. How could she be? It’s a busy mall with men walking in and out of the sub shop. The insurance company was called. The security guard told her he’d be back.
After I drove all the way home, found my jumper cables and drove back to the plaza, she was still there. Her hood was still up. I parked next to her and jumped the car – that simple. She, and her baby, were relieved. I drove away. She drove away.
The first step in great customer service is to have an openness and willingness to help others. See what they need and offer it. Disengage from so many things you think are paramount in your life. Everyone can do this. Then what’s the problem? We’ll talk about it more in another post, but…
A lot of times in life we are engaged in our own projects. We are caught up, angry with our home life, upset with a co-worker or peeved at a boss. We may have a project that we think is the most important event. Later, we realize that it was not so important. We were just so over-engaged at the moment that our energy was sapped.
Free yourself from your inner over-engagement. Allow yourself to embrace opportunities in life. It’s a rich, beautiful world out there. The thing people forget is that “the moment” when you are speaking with someone is the only moment. Put all of your efforts and energy into that moment. Ask yourself, “how can I give the most to this person right now?” Ask, “how can I respect this person and give to them to the best of my ability now?” Don’t be distracted. Give, just give.
This train of thought continues leading into excellence in customer service…