Let Service Be Your Nature

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The economic recovery is on its way according to the animals around my house. And, they seem to be trying to let me know just that. I recall how my childhood dog got under the back porch steps if a storm was coming. If she paced around a lot and whimpered, you could count on a hard rain. She was never wrong. Nature seems to be able to foretell the future.
Two years ago I caught a quick glimpse of a red fox in the woods near my house. Last year it crossed the road in front of my car. But, this week? The fox sat right near the road and watched me drive by. I was impressed by its confidence and wondered if it was giving me a sign.
Last week someone ran over a snake crossing the highway. When I passed by later there were four crows standing near the snake sensing its inevitable demise. But, the snake was coiling and striking at the crows as if to say, “I am not giving up.” I was amazed with its never-say-die tenacity. A sign?
A barn swallow built its nest on top of a column at the corner of my house. It was well-protected from everything except the gutter down spout–one big rain and the little ones would be floating away. But, the swallow seemed unconcerned. The baby birds hatched and completed flight school before it rained. What strong optimism!
Three signs do not a prophesy make. But, my dog was never wrong. Nature not only is a fortune-teller but a mentor as well, outlining the recipe for customer service in worrisome times. If we follow the wisdom of nature the message is this: give your customers your best confidence, your most impressive tenacity, and your strongest optimism.
Your Best Confidence

A good friend of mine enjoys telling the story of his first day of school. As a youngster he not only had a noticeable stutter, he was not the most assertive kid in the neighborhood. On his first day of school when it came time to say his name in front of the whole class, he said, “My, my, my, na, na, na, name, is kee, kee, kee, Keith.” When everyone laughed, he ran out of the classroom and all the way home. His mother inspired him to go back telling him he was a very special person and to her the most important individual in the world. She reminded him of his special gifts. Not only did he return, Keith Harrell became one of the most renowned motivational speakers in the world.
Confidence comes from remembering special gifts we can bring others. When a coach wants an athlete to source a higher level of performance, he or she reminds the athlete of unused talents. Confidence can also come from a sense of purpose. Dr. Martin Luther King inspired millions to confidently fight for freedom by reminding them of a dream, “That one day this country will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.” When a reported questioned Mother Teresa’s capacity to save the growing multitude of poor in Calcutta, she responded, “God doesn’t require you to succeed; he only requires that you try.” As we source our gifts and our cause, we pass confidence to others. The fox beside the road was red…noticeably red. Its very presence was a message of boldness.

Your Most Impressive Tenacity

The snake story is admittedly a sad one. Nature can be raw and distasteful. But, nature can also be inspirational and instructive. Tenacity is defined as “persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued.” The snake was obviously holding on to its life. When customers see you hold on to your professionalism, they derive trust. When they observe you hold on to your humanity, they gain warmth. And, when they witness you holding on to your character, they obtain strength.

Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, the 6th largest fast-food chain in the U.S., is a deeply religious person. Like the 1927 Olympic gold medal runner Eric Little’s refusal to compete on the Sabbath that formed the plot of the movie Chariots of Fire, Truitt elected to remain closed on Sunday. Competitor’s KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King and the like serve customers seven days a week. Truett Cathy gained enormous favor and success in the marketplace for tenaciously remaining faithful to his professionalism, his humanity, and most of all his character.

Your Strongest Optimism

Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to climb Mount Everest in 1953. A year earlier he attempted to climb Everest but failed. Shortly after his failed attempt he was invited to speak to a group of admirers who gave him a hero’s welcome. Instead of speaking from the lectern, he walked to the edge of the stage, made a fist, pointed at a large photo of the mountain on the wall and screamed: ‘Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time because you’ve grown all you are going to grow…but I’m still growing.”

Optimistic people are “still growing” and view each encounter as a chance to add to that growth. What did you learn from your last customer encounter? What could you have learned had you approached it as a chance to serve…and learn? Use “futurespeak” when communicating with customers…what we can do, where we can go, how we can improve, what we can learn. Invite customers to join you in the adventure of possibilities and opportunities. Customers would rather be served by an optimist who is sometimes wrong than by a pessimist who is always right. When you encounter customers who persist in staying on the dark side, accept them where they are, stay strongly wedded to your optimism, and in time you will lead them to a brighter attitude.

I live on a large lake. And, I just saw a great big bass jump straight up out of the water. A sign? Not likely. Not all of nature’s actions are prophesies. I think this one might be a cue for me to get my fishing pole and get back to nature!

Chip Bell
Chip R. Bell is the founder of the Chip Bell Group (chipbell.com) and a renowned keynote speaker and customer loyalty consultant. Dr. Bell has authored several best-selling books including The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service and, with John Patterson, Take Their Breath Away. His newest book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, will be released in February.

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