Thursday, December 12, 2013

Serving a Grinch

Strain was palpable on the bartender's face as the restaurant hummed with customers. With only a brief glance at me, he took my order, retreated down the bar, attended to other matters, and then hurriedly placed my drink before me, failing to meet my eyes for more than a nanosecond. Instead, his eyes drifted to the vacant space above the next task. The elements of service were there but it lacked the warmth of my time under the lights. Lest you think I'm an attention hog, let me offer another perspective.

In Japan, lines are long and yet the customer's experience rarely waivers once it's your turn. The bartender stays with the customer until the drink is delivered, no interruptions. The ritual is honored as the drink is painstakingly measured, unhurriedly mixed, and then set before you with fanfare that varies with the bartender's skills of understatement (only in Japan). 

In any financial transaction in Japan, whether at a kiosk or a bank, money is meticulously counted out twice no matter how many others await their turn. First, cashiers counts the money to themselves while you watch, and then the money is again counted as it is given to the customer. Only the bank does this consistently in the States (so far). Recently when I counted out a wad of cash a grocery store cashier handed over to me, the cashier quipped, "We go on trust here!" I continued to count it and quipped back, "Not where I'm from." He probably missed by point.

Trusting that a foot will fall on something solid when stepping into the void is the kind of trust I think the world needs. When every customer's experience is consistent, whether from the bartender to the grocery store cashier, then the experience is about good service not whether I trust a stranger to make my drink or count my change. Even when you know the service provider it is a professionalism and self-respect for the work that is added to the transaction when the service is provided in a consistent and reverential way. 

Respect the work that you do by taking it seriously in the moment

Make me a drink; stay with me. Give me my change; count out my damn money. Act like you respect the work you do; expect me to watch you. Do your work; don't ask me fifty questions on how to do it-- that's why I'm paying you to provide the service. Trust that I will wait for the experience; deliver it. Ignore the chatty co-worker while you are engaged in a customer interaction; stay in the moment.

You have to choose to serve calmness.

Serving Calm, drinking a Grinch