A Few Words on Service

On December 13th, 2009, I was getting ready to go to a performance of Handel’s Messiah, in which my lovely and talented wife was to sing in the choir.  My most excellent older brother and his wife were going to keep the kids for me.  My very good friend and his wife were going to come with me so I wouldn’t have to sit alone.  All was right with the world.

Then, as quick as a rattlesnake, I was doubled over in pain, white as a sheet and filled with both dread of what was to come and guilt for ruining so many people’s plans.  I knew exactly what the problem was, as I had experienced it several times before.  Kidney stones.  (If you didn’t actually shudder and cringe when you read that you’ve never had them.)

So way back on that Sunday afternoon, I figured this was going to be an inconvenience and no more.  I had painkillers and anti-nausea meds and even some nifty stuff called Flomax which helped the last stone I had pass in just six hours.  I figured it would be more or less a repeat of that.  How wrong can one chubby computer guy be?  That was the question I was ironically pondering a week later as they were wheeling me into my first ever surgery.

What does all of this have to do with service?  I talk a bunch about customer service, service in your organization, a service mindset, always from the perspective of the one serving.  Over the course of this couple of weeks, I got a very large dose of the perspective of being served.

Learn From My Pain

  1. It’s vaguely uncomfortable to be served by someone else.  Maybe it’s because I’m a guy.  Maybe it’s because I’m a support person at heart.  I’m not sure what it is, but I always feel like I should be doing things for myself.  Being in a position where I physically CAN’T do things for myself made me realize that despite the slight discomfort from being served, I am SO grateful to those who helped me out.  I would do almost anything for those people in return.  Keep that in mind as you try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
  2. The strongest relationships are forged (or broken) in service.  When someone really needs your help, that’s the absolute BEST time to win them over.  If you help them when they need it, they will remember.  I have an esteemed colleague that gets an absolutely electric charge out of going into a situation where the customer is upset and then turning the situation around and winning them over for life.  I’ve seen it happen, these people would do anything for him when he’s done.
  3. Customer service is about one person serving another.  It has nothing to do with corporate policies or call centers or even the product itself.  It boils down to a single person doing their best to make the other person feel valued and cared for.  There has been volume after volume written on this subject, but that’s the heart of it.  If you can pull this off, everything else is candy.
    I hope this give some insight from the other side of the table that will help in pursuit of excellent service.  I have experienced such a tremendous amount of great service over the past several weeks, and I can tell you first-hand how amazing it is when it happens.  From the nurses and doctors that took care of me in the hospital, to my true friends who brought food when we needed it (I didn’t cook a meal for days), to my family members and coworkers who prayed for me, checked in on me and thought about me, I am grateful to them all. 
    The one I have to single out in this, though, is my beautiful, intelligent, patient and caring wife.  She did everything that needed to be done for both of us for several weeks.  She missed out on doing things she loves doing and rearranged her whole life without a whisper of complaint and at a moment’s notice.  She is the greatest.
    After this outpouring of support that I experienced, I have felt very loved and appreciated.  I feel like I can surmount any obstacle with all of these great people on my side.  I didn’t mean to get sappy at all with this, so let me leave you with this question.  What would happen in your business/job/life, if you could make the people around you feel like that every time you were around them?  I can’t tell exactly, but I bet it would be amazing.