Always Leave a Place Better Than You Found It

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This article was originally published on the FCR blog on July 17, 2019. Click here to read the original post.

A childhood memory is etched in my brain. After spending a couple weeks at a friend’s cabin, we spent several hours on the final day cleaning. By cleaning I mean emptying trash, dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, washing the linens, cleaning toilets, replacing paper products, and a whole lot more. When I questioned why we were doing all of this work my mom replied, “We always leave a place better than we found it.”



At the time I’m sure the 6th grade version of me found my mom’s response rather annoying, but this life lesson left an indelible mark on me and I’ve found that it can be applied to so many life situations. To name a few:

  • You borrow a friend’s truck to pick up a piece of furniture and top off their gas tank or run it through a car wash before returning it.
  • You borrow a guitar from a friend and polish and restring it before returning it.
  • You borrow a dress or suit for an event and take it to the dry cleaner before returning it.
  • You take care of a friend’s baby for a few hours and are sure to send the baby home with a clean diaper.

It’s the right thing to do, right? The funny thing is that in so many cases we’re required to pay security deposits to safeguard the owner in the event that we don’t do the right thing. It’s why the rental car company charged me extra to ensure that I don’t trash the car before returning it.

Let’s talk briefly about how we can apply this concept to our work in customer service.

Leaving the customer in a better place than they were before contacting us.

Truly each customer interaction is an opportunity to apply this principle. We can all rattle off a laundry list of companies we’ve contacted for support that left us the same or worse by the end of the interaction. I think we can agree that, with few exceptions, these aren’t companies we’ll happily continue to do business with if we can find a viable alternative.

As customer service professionals it’s also no fun to interact with customers after the last person they spoke with didn’t apply this principle. Leaving the customer in a better place than they were before contacting us means that we work tirelessly to provide them with accurate information. It means preventing additional, unnecessary interactions by anticipating and addressing the future needs of the customer

Leaving your job in a better place that it was when you got there.

Now let’s look at this concept on a grander scale. No one takes a job with a goal of failing or leaving the place in shambles. Sure we might take jobs that require a bit of a learning curve, but if you’ve taken a job in customer service or are leading a customer service team, being successful means so much more than just gathering a paycheck. Serving others is hard work and our longevity requires that we gain some purpose and meaning from it.



Long term success in this field means that we’ve consistently left customers better than they were when they first contacted us. If we’re in leadership it means that we’ve helped our colleagues achieve the same. It also means that we’ve partnered with the rest of the organization to continuously improve the various aspects of our business, product, and customer experience.

Zooming out one more time, let’s think about the legacy we wish to leave both in our careers and in our lives as a whole. We’re talking about pride of ownership — a deep desire to leave the world in a better place than it was when we entered it. While that’s certainly something to aspire to, it can also be overwhelming.

Remember that the legacy we leave starts right now by leaving each customer and/or human we interact with in a better place than they were before we interacted with them. Begin there and I think you’ll be amazed at the legacy you leave.

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