Human Service

Maybe we should quit teaching what customer service is and simply talk about people being in service one to another. Everyone has a standard about how they want to be treated. If we had a “Maslow’s hierarchy of guest service”, I think it might look like this:

This week, I witnessed guest service at its highest form. The incredible thing is that the service giver and the receiver were both performing at the top of the pyramid. I fly a ton, so this particular incident happened on a plane. When you fly next, I encourage you to pay close attention to the interaction between people on the plane. Watch everyone – passengers, young and old, flight attendants, the pilot – everyone. There’s a lot of service and disservice going on just during the boarding process.

I fly enough to usually enjoy the benefit of an upgrade and get to ride in first class. The service is measurably better in first class. This particular flight was just like any other. First class boarded first, and then the poor saps who have to ride in coach began the slow, patient, grind of aisle standing and managing the luggage they refuse to check because it costs $30 more! (Oh, that’s another article altogether. Don’t get me started!)

Anyway, I digress. The boarding process was thinning out when a soldier steps on board. I had not really noticed him because I was reading. What I did notice from my 5E seat is that the man in 4B stood up immediately and gave his seat to the soldier. 4B took the soldier’s boarding pass and folded into the aisle to take a coach seat in the back of the plane.

I burst into tears. Ok, I started leaking. Several people who passed the soldier in the first class seat stopped to say thanks. Those brave men and women who give all of us ultimate service with their armed forces commitment have certainly put the needs of others before their own.

I was so taken by the simple kindness that the civilian in 4B extended to this soldier that I couldn’t quit thinking about the fact that truly we are all in service one to another. It’s not something that should just happen at work. It’s a practice that we all choose to live or not.

J Brock, who works with us, and his wife, Aquilla, picked me up one night from the airport. As they waited on me, they met a young soldier who was from Waco. No one met this returning soldier. His young wife had had car problems. Long story short, JB and Aquilla dropped me off at home and then took that young soldier to Waco that night. Waco is 90 miles from where we live. J and Aquilla never considered any alternatives. It didn’t matter that it was late. What mattered is the return service opportunity that they could give to that young man at that time.

It’s incredible what you can do. When you work in a guest service environment, you have the opportunity to create a new story every day. Each shift presents you with the chance to move up the guest service hierarchy pyramid. Where do you stand? Are you just getting by, doing only what’s asked of you or the absolute minimum? Or are you giving freely, looking for ways to improve service or make someone’s experience more memorable? Some will stop and ask, “Why should I?” because the reality is you get paid the same whether you perform at the top of the pyramid or at the bottom. My gut reaction is, “Why shouldn’t you?” I think it takes the same amount of energy and effort to perform at any of those levels, and the real secret is, as you move up and perform at the higher rungs of the pyramid, you get back as much or more than you give.

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2 Responses

  1. Bev Van Blair says:

    Hi, Beth,

    What you experience and what you do (and what the man in 4B and J did) just reinforce my strong belief that for many of us, our “job” interacting with people is a Vocation or Ministry (in church talk) that can also be called customer service in the secular world. You make a difference in people’s lives, as do those who put others first!!

  2. Julie Yost says:

    Beth, just catching up with my reading….and I really connect with this particular article. These two examples of unexpected, unrequested kindnesses are priceless. The parallel back to “wow-ing” a customer with a surprise of phenomenal service is so relevant to your business, your clients’ business and all of us! Thanks for the quality of your writing, and your topics always resonate with me. Wishing you continued success! Julie Yost

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