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Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Customer Care

Refocusing Your Customer-Facing Associates

We need a concerted leadership effort to refocus on the ‘served’ instead of the ‘server’

Published: Monday, January 31, 2022 - 13:02

It all started when we drove up to the speaker menu at a quick-service restaurant. “Can I take your order?” the attendant coldly barked. When my wife, on hearing the deep voice of the attendant, politely said, “Thank you, sir,” she got back a sharp, “It’s ma’am.”

The attendant bristled with obvious disdain when we got our meal and asked for napkins (not included). When we requested catsup (not included), she darkly said, “This was supposed to be my day off, and I was ordered to come in for someone who didn’t show up.” We wished she’d been the “missing in action” employee.

The next day I read an article that provided a list of 53 restaurant chains likely to close in the next year. I thought to myself: This restaurant needs to be among the ones going out of business. It was. Based on their frontline ambassador, they were earning the right to go bankrupt. Sadly, it was completely avoidable.

We’re living in a time of “all about me.” The preferred approach to influencing “my way” or “my view” is loud lectures instead of quiet conversations. Gun violence is up along with suicide. Rowdy factions are chosen over genuine understanding. A health concern like controlling a pandemic is transformed into a political outcry about freedom, even though we don’t allow driving while intoxicated, smoking in public places, or placing a child in a vehicle without a car seat.

It’s this cultural attitude that requires a concerted leadership effort to refocus on the “served” instead of the “server.”

A friend’s son got in trouble for drinking as a minor. The son had gotten an older friend to buy him a bottle of vodka, but before he could get out of the parking lot, he was arrested. The wise judge sentenced this first-offender to 80 hours of community service at a soup kitchen serving homeless people. My friend says the punishment noticeably changed his son. “I learned there are other important people out there besides me,” said the boy.

The price for being a citizen is to help someone in need. It’s also the price you pay for being in a frontline service role—helping someone in need. In the words of my friend Joseph Michelli, today, we need more “otherness.”


About The Author

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Chip Bell has helped companies dramatically enhance their bottom lines and marketplace reputation through innovative customer-centric strategies. For the sixth year in a row, Global Gurus in 2020 ranked Bell as one of the top three keynote speakers in the world on customer service. Bell has authored 24 books; seven are international best sellers. His latest book, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination: 5 Secrets for Creating Breakthrough Products, Services, and Solutions (Berrett-Koehler, 2020), shows how co-creation partnerships enable you to tap into the treasure trove of ideas, ingenuity, and genius-in-the-raw within every customer.