Customer Service Begins and Ends With Me!

Diann Forbes, long time 4C administrative assistant, reflects on what makes customers tick…

According to Mahatma Gandhi, “a customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

I love this quote because it reflects the true essence of our work’s purpose – customer service. It is about building positive, healthy relationships with people based on mutual trust, respect and integrity. For me, it is following the Golden Rule: treat others the way I want to be treated.  When I am the customer, I appreciate when someone is friendly, courteous, helpful and knowledgeable. Caring for children, building relationships with parents and coworkers, all of these things have an element of customer service for someone working in the field of early childhood!

Every human being needs to feel valued and know their needs are important. When any communication goes unanswered, people assume the worst – that they are insignificant. As a mom and advocate for my daughter, I’ve worked with professionals on her behalf. Often they tell me they are overworked or buried by a huge caseload; these excuses serve as justifications for their non-responsiveness. What I am really hearing is that my child’s needs aren’t as important as their other clients. Being prompt, courteous and respectful are key ingredients to providing excellent customer service and can diffuse many situations. Customers need to feel heard and understood.

A key element to excellent customer service is monitoring my internal barometer. I have a tendency to go into auto-pilot without really checking in with my body. What’s my internal barometer telling me at this particular moment in time? What am I feeling?

  • Raw? Does every nerve in me feel exposed and vulnerable?
  • Just right? Do I feel balanced and in harmony? Is everything right in my world? Am I getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy and are my relationships ok?
  • Overcooked? Am I in overdrive? Doing too much? Feeling frazzled or burned out? Do I have the joy I once had?

To stay in tune with myself, I keep visual reminders posted at work and home. At work, I keep an index card at my computer that reads: “measure my words and actions with love, peace and encouragement”. At home, a sign hangs in my kitchen that reads “BREATHE.” These words remind me to slow down and to be present when life becomes hectic between balancing work and family.

Here is the challenge for all of us: To reflect on the customer service we are providing each day. Are we applying the Golden Rule? Did quality begin and end with me? As Mother Teresa once said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”