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Take Care of Yourself Before You Take Care of Your Customer
by On April 15, 2008

Eric PlantenbergOne of the most important questions people ask when they are focused on improving their quantity and quality of business is: “What is my competitive advantage? What makes me unique, memorable, special… what truly sets me apart from the rest?”

While there are no definitively right answers to that question, most people come to some conclusion that customer service is a critical component of your competitive advantage. For most businesses, the service they offer can vary from exceptional to not so hot, depending upon circumstances.

Why is that? Why does the same company, and even the same people within that company provide world class service some of the time, and marginal service (or worse) other times?

That answer can be found in asking a different question: “What makes you (or your staff) happy when serving your customers?” While these answers also vary, most people come up with some sort of variation of “I am happy when my customer is happy.”

Do we enjoy dealing with agitated or disgruntled people? Normally not. We derive our joy from delivering value, by making others feel good about their experience, and by exceeding people’s expectations.

What comes first then, the happy customer or the happy person serving the customer? This is not the chicken or the egg quandary. The happy person serving the customer NEEDS to come first, because it is a very unusual day when your customer comes into your business looking to cheer YOU up.

This all seems very obvious. At the same time that many people realize this truth, it is rare that people consciously take steps to make sure that their greatest customer service assets are being serviced too – whether that person in on your staff, in another department, or if that person is YOU. It is critical that you continually improve the emotional, physical and mental support you are supplying to the people serving your customers.

One of my friends and colleagues, Paul Wesselemann, shared a story about his time working at an HIV/AIDS support network. He explained how it was absolutely unacceptable to come to work when you were feeling even a bit ill, as even the smallest cold could be extremely dangerous for someone with HIV. He was REQUIRED first and foremost to take care of himself, make sure he was 100% before he was allowed to offer help and support to others.

How committed are you to taking the same care of YOUR needs? Your task for the month is to identify and act upon a couple of ways to keep you in proper shape so you can take care of your always important customers. Share your experience and post a comment below.


Eric Plantenberg

  1. Joni Billings

    Amazing! It seems so elementary…to support the emotional, physical, mental needs of a person serving the customer…yet how often we see and experience the other side…companies that fail to shine the “gems” they literally throw out to represent them! Thank you. With your words, you’ve created “magic” today!

  2. Agung Widiyantoro

    Well, evethough I’m late in posting this commment. I do agre to your opinion Eric. It’s absolutely great asset for me reading your essay. To me working 7 days in a week 11 hours a day dealing with the customers (on the cruiseline) requires alot of energy. It’s not easy to work and smile in order to make the guest happy. The only key to win the guest or the table, since I work in the diningroom, is the word HAPPY. It’s true that to some people, in my working area, tend to think that it’s just lips business. May be that’s why some people have feeling bad as they face difficult customers. They grumble and to the other friends about the situation that they face. I guess, this makes they are in the worse situation.To me, happy should not be a burden to in serving customer, happy should not be faked. Happy is like a stream coming from the inside (I borrow what Eric said)…It means happy should be Genuine..and I believe with the hapiness ang being Genuine we can win the customer….The real happyness is the key to win the game..

  3. Mark Ahles

    Eric, you have a wonderful outlook on life and you are spot on about projecting happiness. I especially like you comment that waiting for your customer to cheer YOU up is not an option. I am dumfounded when some of my people still respond to a deteriorating situation by blaming it on the customer…like “they started it”.

    I enjoyed you blog.

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