Serve outside the lines

May 7, 2014

KK flowersThis 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 Brian 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.”

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From a stool, or a couch, or a chair reclined.

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  • rochelleveturis

    She’s a darling. Ah, can’t wait until my Kennedy is old enough to have thought-provoking chats, like this one, with her dad and I. What a special conversation, Steve. Thank you for sharing it and for bringing home such an important point about taking creative license in customer service; I’ve seen so many missed opportunities lately – from companies of every size and nature. If only someONE would’ve taken the opportunity to right the wrong and over deliver, they could’ve turned a dropped-ball into a success story – a story that would’ve far outlived whatever mishap occurred. Here’s to being thoughtful. Being creative. And making sweet music (or poetry) out of every customer SERVice experience.

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