I (Simon) travel more than I like. It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it, it’s just that for those of us that do travel a lot we miss ‘the little things’ of home. For me, it’s the warm smile of people I know I pass on my bike in the early hours of the morning to and from training. The two lads that run the local café where the BTB Team grab coffee who like to convince me that their coffee is the best in the world and I should be damn lucky to sample it. So when it comes to travel I search for something, someone, to give me that smile, that ‘engagement’ we have at home.
I’m on the other side of the world, Houston, and every day is long (throw in time zone body clock syncing and it’s a long day indeed) with new faces, different expectations and of course a different diet. I’m up normally in Houston around 4:30am, catch up on work from overnight in Sydney, go to the gym and then down to breakfast just after 6am…and there we met, Marilyn.
Each morning this wonderful woman brings a joy and spark into every individual who she meets. It’s much more than a ‘Good Morning’ it is an engagement with that one person, a sincere, warm (and in particular at this hour) engagement, relationship, with just ‘you’. Over the week I stayed in Houston seeing Marilyn every morning was important to me, and it wasn’t that she served breakfast. Marilyn made me feel I was important to her, someone that was as much a part of her morning as she was of mine. The beaming smile, the willingness to serve (another blog entirely) and the booming cackle of an infectious laugh. If anyone had mastered customer service, real service that lasts, it was Marilyn.
Yet here’s the challenge. Organisations rarely recognise the immense value that the frontline (our first impressions of a group, organisation or company) people bring to our clients. We spend a great deal of time with middle management development and too often neglect the need to recognise our ‘front of customer’ people. The most important description here is ‘recognise’. It’s such a little thing, yet makes such a lasting impression we too often fail to understand, recognise, its importance.
On our (on this trip Sarah & Sacha were here with me) last morning we asked Marilyn what she liked about her job, and that was my first mistake. She didn’t ‘like’ it, she ‘loved it’. Here is a devout people person that each morning gets to welcome people into her home (the hotel) and spend time with them. Many were regulars from the hugs (few escaped) that were given out each morning, a chat about children, what they were going to do for the day and that on farewell it would be a – ‘look forward to seeing you tomorrow’. We loved it and I for one sincerely appreciated it. So what were the lessons?
Contact – be there, be physically there with people. Give them contact and acknowledgement that you’re there for them,
Relationship – Bring them into your world, share their interests and find out what’s important to them, it’s not about you,
Sincerity – People can smell ‘fake’ a mile away. If you don’t mean it, don’t walk through the motion. Do it because you want to,
Service (not servant) – To serve is something we do regardless of monetary enticement. We do it because it brings us satisfaction, joy and contentment. This doesn’t mean we become servants, on the contrary, it’s something we have total control over, the choice on how we exercise it and with whom we share it with.
Marilyn loved her job because she chose to love it. A great lesson for all of us.