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The 'Best Customer' Treatment

The lessons I learned as a young child and teenager about how to treat people is something that has stayed with me. Those lessons also helped me in business as well.

1. Treat Everyone With Respect. – I saw this exemplified by my father, a small town high school football coach, and my mother, a junior high secretary. Being the child of public school employees, I spent many hours in the school office. No, not just for disciplinary actions! My parents had a rule about our behavior at school – If you get in trouble at school, the punishment given to you by the teacher or principal will be doubled at home! And because we were a small town school system, I had no doubt that word would make it back to mom and dad when I misbehaved at school.

At the junior high school where my mother served as the secretary, there was a very humble and meek janitor named Clarence. Clarence was the one who swept the halls, picked up trash, cleaned the restrooms, fixed broken desks and equipment, restocked the vending machines, maintained air conditioning and heating equipment, and ordered supplies, etc. He was also the one who would clean up when someone was bleeding, sick, or vomiting. While most of society would look at Clarence’s job as the least of all school positions, I watched my parents treat him and his wife with great respect and equality, showing gratitude often for the excellent way he took care of the school, the students, and the teachers.

2. Use People’s Names When Greeting Them.

This lesson came from my youth minister at church. It seemed like a comment in passing as he was teaching that day, but for some reason it hit me like a light bulb moment. His comment and challenge to us that day was, -- When you pass your fellow classmates in the hall at school, look them in the eyes, greet them and use their name. You have no idea how seldom they may hear their name spoken in a positive way. Their parents, siblings, and other classmates may be calling them expletive names, or negative descriptive names like stupid, dumb, or worse.

Somehow it registered in my brain that I had the ability to make someone’s day better through a simple greeting with their name. I took the challenge on and I’m sure my classmates thought I was weird, but I saw the change happen sometimes in their smile, their eyes, their shoulders and stature. But mostly, I saw the change in myself, becoming more hospitable.

Be careful not to judge a potential customer by their clothing, their job title, income, or their looks. At my nonprofit organization, Hospitality House of Tulsa, our very first Culture Key is this: Treat everyone like a donor. Treat everyone you come in contact with as if they were the most generous donor to our organization. This includes staff, volunteers, guests, board members, vendors, and of course, donors. Why? Because all of these people give something toward the mission. Time, money, in-kind value, planned gifts, etc. Treat all people well.

Hospitality In Action Tip #13

Treat every customer like they are your best customer and in time, they will become just that.


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