July 14, 2008

Good day, team,

Today’s challenge is about customer service.

Last Friday morning I was out and about by 7 a.m., running errands for an off-site I was hosting for a small, local team of very talented design and sales people who deal with the public in a retail store every day. I scurried around purchasing fruit, pastries and coffee so that we could have a bit of breakfast together before we started our agenda for the day.

Since I don’t have a large coffee pot, I decided to go to Starbucks and purchase what’s called a coffee traveler. It’s a cardboard box that’s lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil into which they put a large pot of coffee.  I’m not a huge fan of Starbucks products, but for this kind of event, the coffee traveler is a great invention.

I walked into the store and was greeted by a young, smiling woman who asked if she could help me. I told her what I needed. She asked how many people I was serving. I told her and she suggested that I buy two coffee travelers to ensure that I had enough. Then she asked me what kind of coffee I wanted. I replied that one strong coffee and one a little lighter would be good. She suggested I take a seat, as she would need to make the coffee fresh and it would take about 10 minutes. She also asked if I wanted a free sample of anything while I waited. I said no, I had already had my coffee that morning.

What happened next was simply amazing to watch. This woman was a true artist at her work. Every movement she made was just right: not too much, not too little. Her ability to maneuver coffee pots and filters, coffee beans and grinders, water pitchers and thermostats was a marvel to me. She was extremely efficient and focused without expressing any negativity about her tasks. She didn’t seem stressed when other customers tried to interrupt her while she was waiting on me. She even responded with a smile and managed to multi-task, making sure that anyone who addressed her was immediately taken care of by her or someone else. Her demeanor was professional and easy-going, efficient and flexible, directed and approachable. Her actions were like watching a beautifully executed dance. She was a joy to watch!

As she was finishing up my order, she asked if I wanted half and half as well.  She packed up cups, lids, stirring sticks and sugar packets in the same bag with the half and half. She asked if I needed help to my car with the coffee travelers and bag. I said no, it would be good for my triceps for me to carry it all myself.  She laughed and flexed her arm (sort of a “We can do it” move) that created a small emotional moment between us.

Before I left the store, I told her what a pleasure it had been to watch her and that my view of Starbucks had just been altered by the experience. She said, “I really love my job. I’ve been doing this for awhile and finally found my niche. I like the company, and they’ve been good to me. Each day, I try to intentionally treat each customer the way I like to be treated. And, frankly, I’m pretty picky.”

She thanked me for noticing.  I replied, “No, thank you for such great service!”

Your challenge this week is to take her advice. Think about how you like to be served and then try approaching each task with intention and focus. Try doing everything with a sense of abundance and joy. Whether it’s stacking papers, making coffee, creating a strategic plan, doing complex mathematics, or cleaning your desk off, every action can become a joy if the person doing it has the right attitude and energy.

As I left Starbucks, I realized that it’s not where you serve but how you serve that makes all the difference.

Have a great week!