This morning on the way into work, I was confronted with human decency.
After a rough start to the day – starting with my oversleeping – all I wanted was to buy my morning caffeine hit from the little coffee place where I get my wake-up call every morning.
I auto-piloted off the train and out of the station and headed towards caffeine. As I waited in line, coffee in hand, the gentleman in front of me glanced back and then told the cashier that he’d get my drink as well. I didn’t think I looked that tired, but maybe I did; it was one of those days.
Now. As a female, alone, and in public, there are several things that go through my head when something like this happens. My brain processes go roughly like this:
Brain: Wait what?
Voice: You don’t have to!…Are you sure?
Brain: What’s the catch?/I’m not going out with you./There has to be a catch, no one does stuff like this./Do I really look that tired?/Do I come across as being unable to afford my own coffee?/I’m offended/I’m flattered/I’m late! I don’t have time to be nicer!
Voice: Thank you!
Brain: Darn, I hope I expressed my thanks properly./Oh, he’s gone with no further queries or conversation./Now I feel guilty for doubting his motives, I hope he understands that I’m grateful./Faith in humanity restored.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, or possibly of my inner cynic revealing herself because it’s too early in the morning and my collective consciousness has had a rough start. Truth is, I am grateful. Not just for the coffee, but for the fact that there are still people out there who believe in doing right.
Part of the problem with the world is that we’ve lost sight of each other as individual people. We’re all so caught up in our personal issues that we forget that we’re all part of the same world and we could all use a bit of human decency.
“Pay it forward,” the gentleman from this morning said to me. And I will.
Something else this experience highlighted was that one of the best customer service pointers you can have in your toolbox is simple human decency.
Empathy is one of those things we talk about a lot, but rarely practice. How much do we actually care that the customer who just came in had trouble parking? Or ran into an old friend just down the street? Be honest: we don’t actually care at all – we may listen, and nod and smile, but as soon as the customer’s out the door we’ll forget about their little experience. That’s just how humanity works.
I’m not suggesting that we take everyone’s stories home with us – that’s not healthy, but really listening to someone’s story gives you a deeper connection with that customer, and customer service is all about connections. Human decency is about how well we develop those connections and under what motives we form them.
The gentleman from this morning had nothing material to gain from buying my coffee for me – he wasn’t even the one doing the selling – but what he did prove was that a simple gesture of human decency completely changed my day. Apply that to customer service and you get a winning recipe. Showing people a personal touch, paying a little more attention to their needs, can make all the difference.