dad and daughterMy dad gave me great advice, adages and tidbits of wisdom. One of my favorites is, “If you are never sure what to do, imagine me standing next to you.”

He told me this before I went off to college and considering he was the dad that scared the heck out of all my high school dates, I know the primary intent of this little tidbit. It worked. There is a certain filter that comes with being around your parent, even if you just imagine them there.

I kept this little tidbit in the back of my head throughout my career and as a business owner. I find it very helpful with customer service, good or bad. This week I experienced a contrast in customer service.

The transmission in my car when out. We called several places, priced many options and decided upon one company. Initially it looked as though all would be taken care of in less than a week. Then the transmission goblins stepped in – it is close to Halloween you know. Long story short – three bad rebuilds lead to the company sending it to a dealership for a new one and nearly a month later I (according to the manager) had hit the transmission lotto with a perfectly running car.

I was not happy that each week there was a problem with the newest install; however, this was not the fault of the company, it was a bad transmission from their supplier. Even though I was not happy, I could not blame them; I did suggest they find a new supplier.

In the end, they kept us apprised of what was going on and held true to the original cost and increased the warranty. Things that were out of their control they handled on their end and upheld good customer service to us.

There were plenty of opportunities for great customer service and they kept them front in mind.

This weekend, we stopped in to a McDonalds to grab a quick breakfast. We had a lazy day planned so we were not in a hurry, thank goodness. There were only two young people in front of us and several people waiting on their order.

After we got our drinks we sat down and got engulfed in conversation. At one point we realized we had not heard our order and I saw the young girl still standing near the counter that ordered before us so I knew it had not been called. That is when I looked at the receipt to see what time we ordered. 10:47. Our order was called at 11:15.

It also had to change because one item we ordered were hot cakes, when they handed us the food they told us that they were out of syrup. Well, that would not work. So we asked for something different and got it immediately.

The young girl in front of us who also waited over a half hour for her food – she ordered a cinnamon role and hash brown.

As we ate we tried to figure out what went wrong. Why did it take over a half an hour for these things. That is when dad’s adage came into my head.

The young man at the register never smiled or greeted any customer. He simply took the order without ever moving from his spot. When one angry customer made the comment, “Thanks, a half an hour later!” he made a snarky remark under his breathe. Would he have acted like that if his parent were standing next to him?

The backup crew were busy but without urgency; often standing in front of the screen waiting and watching. If what they needed was not there, they just waited. If their parent were standing next to them, perhaps they would have looked to see what else they could be doing before the order came up.

The woman who called out the orders was brisk; calling out the food and leaving it on the counter. Not once did I see her say, “Thank you for your patience” or “I’m sorry about your wait”. Would she have done so if her parent were next to her?

The thing I realized is that the tone was set before we even walked in. One gentleman walked in and let out a loud groan looking at the line. We told him they were a bit slow today, taking about a half hour. He remarked that they always took that long. I could not understand if he thought this then why was he there and why was he complaining?

Yet the tone was set. There was no customer service. There was no friendly. There was no “we are so sorry for the wait” there was no urgency or energy.

Perhaps they were short staffed, or just had a huge run and obviously the stocking and ordering were not done properly to account for a weekend. Yet, even with these things, there were opportunities for great customer service. They were all missed.

Most customers do not care about your short staffing problems or rushes that you just handled. They care about their experience only. Each and every one is unique and an opportunity to prove yourself all over again.

You cannot always handle or predict what happens during the day; however you have complete control over how you treat each and every customer or client.

My dad worked hard all day on his feet. It did not matter how bad his day was, he always came home and was a great dad. It did not matter what happened five minutes before, it was the immediate interaction that counted.

Putting this with the adage of what would I do if he were standing next to me, I realized that customer service is about that moment. Not the one before or what comes next, just that one moment of interaction.

Perhaps the transmission place got it right because of their advertising or tag line. After all, their commercials are done by the “owner’s mother” and ends with the line, “My Edward, he’s such a good boy.”


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I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

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Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.