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.
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.