The ‘Give-Get’ of Great Customer Service

I’m a firm believer that in everything from relationships, businesses, sports (and pretty much every other situation I can think of), life has a way of giving back what you put into it. If you want to learn a language, book yourself onto a course. If you want to be a better cook, start by making a slightly more complex dinner tonight. If you want a higher salary, determine what skills you can improve so that you can add more value back to your employer. Sounds like a rather straightforward equation, which it is.

Newton figured this out long before I came onto this planet, when in 1687 he published his Third Law of Motion, quite simply stating: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.* Today, this has been boiled down to the two-word ‘Give-Get,’ which certainly isn’t as noteworthy or eloquent, but gets the point across nonetheless.

‘Give-Get’ holds true in our service industry as well. I find myself thinking about this often, and tend to put a lot of energy towards the things that I want to experience or accomplish. I do not believe in getting something for nothing. I do believe that if I put my best effort forward, I should be rewarded with an equal and fair response.

Here’s an example: As I travel quite a bit for work, I will consciously make an effort to be friendly towards the person who is providing me a service. Actually, I believe that I receive better customer service as a result of my attitude, not just the attitude of the person providing the service. This may be contrary to what many customers think, but I’m definitely not the one to sit back and see what attitude will be ‘coming towards me.’ Rather, when boarding a flight, checking into a hotel, or sitting down in a restaurant, I will typically be the one who sets the mood by starting with a friendly hello and a smile; 9 times out of 10, when I smile, the person will smile back, hence putting the service (about to be delivered and about to be received) onto a slightly better level.

Sometimes I find it a bit odd to think that I’m not trying to initiate this higher level of service just to receive an upgrade or better room or better seat in the restaurant (although I do thoroughly appreciate it when that happens!). Rather, as I’m away from home so much, I want (or should I say need) the experience to be calm, relaxed, friendly, and a little personalized. Appropriate humour mixed in definitely helps as well. It makes traveling all the more enjoyable and less stressed, and makes me more productive too. Hence, I find that if I help the person delivering the service understand what my expectations are from the start, it makes their job slightly easier; my expectations are more easily met. I would hope that I’m making their job a bit more fun as well.

Usually, this works well for me. But Newton’s Third Law is not 100% perfect in our humble service industry. Sometimes, the law fails as it does indeed take ‘two to tango.’ Many of us have experienced the irate customer yelling at the gate agent as their flight is an hour delayed. Here, the customer service agent just needs to maintain their cool in what is a rather heated moment. The Give-Get law does not work in this situation, and probably should not as there would likely be a fist fight. I do give great credit to the gate agents who are put into these awful situations!

And recently, the Give-Get law did not work for me during a dinner with my family in a restaurant here in Wimbledon. We all entered the restaurant as we normally would: Happy, smiling, and expecting to have a great evening. But for some reason, the waiter did not quite align with our expectations. He started out very good during the initial exchanges, but then failed to deliver on a number of pretty easy asks. Was he not trained up well enough? Was it his underlying attitude? Was the restaurant not working well as a team? Or was he just plain ‘in the weeds?’ None of us were certain, but it did put a bit of a damper on the night, and when I paid the final bill, I did say to myself “that could have been a lot better.”

Luckily, most people in the hospitality industry are hospitable…that’s the good thing about being in this industry! And most times, the Give-Get law works in my opinion. Next time you are in the position of receiving service, be it an Uber ride or AirBNB stay, London black cab, hotel, or restaurant, start each of your interactions with a smile and friendly conversation. I think you’ll be pleased at how great the service will be in return.

*I know, I know…there will be readers out there who will say “Nope..it wasn’t Newton, it was actually Christiaan Huygens,” but I’m content in referencing the good Sir Isaac for publishing the law in the first place…

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