Serve outside the lines


Share on LinkedIn

This morning, my 9-year-old daughter asked me for a word that rhymes with “all.” She was writing a Mother’s Day poem and grappling with a verse to follow “Your love blooms for all.” The accompanying picture she had drawn contained a row of tall, colorful flowers, so I suggested, “Like a row of colorful flowers tall.”

Kennedy looked at me with a furrowed brow. “That doesn’t make any sense, daddy. It should be ‘like a row of colorful, tall flowers’ but that doesn’t rhyme.”

Thus began a lively conversation about poetic license, which (after a quick search on my iPhone) I defined as: “the liberty taken by an artist or a writer in deviating from conventional form or fact to achieve a desired effect.” I looked up from my phone to see Kennedy displaying yet another furrowed brow.

“Let me explain,” I said. “A poet has license, which means she can bend the standard rules of writing in order for her poem to rhyme. Songwriters do it too.”

It later occurred to me that this concept applies to all forms of artistry, whether poetry, architecture, or even the art of delivering exceptional customer service. Kennedy’s uncle, Brian, for instance, is an architect. In school, he learned all about the “rules” of architecture. Today, as a licensed architect with offices in New York City and Toronto, even though he must adhere to certain building codes, it’s the freedom he enjoys to “design outside the lines” that energizes him and allows him to put a unique stamp on his work.

Service providers must also honor the technical aspects of their jobs (e.g., policies, procedures, protocol). In many cases, this is all they do: execute job function, treating each customer like the last customer. In the process, they unwittingly forfeit the opportunity to demonstrate job essence – to fully express themselves, to interject personality, and to “serve outside the lines.”

Comment below if you’re so inclined,
From a stool, or a couch, or a chair reclined.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Curtin
Steve Curtin is the author of Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary. He wrote the book to address the following observation: While employees consistently execute mandatory job functions for which they are paid, they inconsistently demonstrate voluntary customer service behaviors for which there is little or no additional cost to their employers. After a 20-year career with Marriott International, Steve now devotes his time to speaking, consulting, and writing on the topic of extraordinary customer service.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here