At Your Service: June 16, 2010

This morning I saw my first fawn of the season. Following his mother, he pranced across the road in my path; good brakes saved his life. He (while it was impossible to tell from the fleeting sighting, I assumed a he) could not have been more than a few days old and is as cute as a button. I could not, in the moment, think of anything other than preserving his life.
How different I might feel a few years hence. While I do not hunt myself, I do love venison and enjoy it whenever I can get my hands on some. Had I found him in my garden, I would not wish him harm, but neither would I be welcoming. Neither do I appreciate the ticks he will undoubtedly carry around and leave in his wake. My love of fawns is completely conditional.
It is not unlike many of the relationships we must maintain in business. Under circumstances outside the workplace we may have an assortment of feelings about someone, but those feelings have no relationship to the way we treat people when we are wearing our professional hats.
Even though we know that our neighbor, call her Jane, has a tendency to speak her mind in a fashion that is often interpreted as condescending, we must listen beyond the acerbic tone to hear what she wants. The key is in not taking her tone personally and meeting her without presumption. Expecting her to be a particular way almost guarantees that we will hear whatever she says through that filter. Even if Jane was unkind the last time we dealt with her, being welcoming creates an opportunity for a different experience.
Conversely, when our friend John comes into our store we are under no obligation to give him special treatment. Even though our work schedule makes it almost impossible to meet under more social circumstances, long conversations may not be appropriate when other customers also need our attention. When John is also a good customer, it can be good practice to give him a discount or offer some other form of incentive.
One of the nicer aspects of living in a small community is that we tend to know at least something personal about most of our customers. This knowledge can work both ways unless we are willing to suspend our pre-judgments and deal with people as they present themselves in the moment. It is the “Golden Rule” in practice. Treating people as we want to be treated leads inherently to good service.
In the moment of any encounter we can create an unconditionally respectful experience. I applied my brake to avoid hitting the fawn because it was the right thing to do. Professionalism is equally just the right thing to do. Even more, when we take the moment at its face value we can appreciate what that moment brings. Seeing that fawn brought a taste of joy to my morning that has lingered and flavors the entire day.