Serve and Return

at 12:35 AM

Nowhere is it clearer that we are service dependent than in the Bay Area. Despite the fact that the service sector is expanding, from gardeners and therapists to mechanics and computer consultants, few of us give thought to what kind of client we are. We think that because we pay thousands of dollars per month for child care and health care and hair care, we deserve great service.

Wrong.

Writing a check has nothing to do with getting exceptional service. By default we are all clients. Just nobody has bothered to teach us how to become great clients.

Luis taught me this lesson. He runs a town car service in the East Bay and has given me many a ride to the San Francisco Airport. Recently he picked me up at some ungodly hour. Rather than slide sleepily into the back seat, I asked if I could sit up front. He gave me a look of great interest and moved aside some papers. For the first time we talked about his business, his family, his dreams. And from that day forth I was his favorite client and received unequaled service.

I call this my principle of "Serve and Return." By focusing on the people serving me, I consistently get world class service. But be forewarned, becoming a great client demands empathy, humanity and most importantly, humility. This can be difficult when you are paying the bill and the waiter is overworked and acting like a jerk.

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Given the diversity of the Bay Area, it is especially important that "Serve and Return" work across borders and cultures and professions. Many of the people serving you, from the person at your local restaurant to the guy repairing your car, weren't born here and may not speak perfect English. So, the next time you call your cable company, listen to the person serving you. Start with a question rather than a demand. Ask their name and where they live. Think about what it's like to get 100 calls a day, all from strangers who believe that they are the most important person on Earth.

Try being a great client. You'll be amazed at the service you get.

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With a Perspective, I'm Jeff Manning.

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