blog-9My friend Bob once stopped at a fast-food restaurant and placed an order that came with a cookie. The server responded, “And would you like a cookie with that?” The next time Bob returned to the restaurant, he placed the same order, cookie included, with a different server. Again the server politely asked, “And would you like a cookie with that?”

A month later, Bob visited the restaurant again and was met at the counter by a third server. This time Bob was feeling mischievous. He placed his order, adding, “I would like 200 cookies with that.” To which the server replied, “And would you like a cookie with that?”

Great customer service starts with being fully present. That’s not easy, especially when you sell the same product over and over, when the day grows long or when there are constant distractions.

Some companies use scripts as a reminder to stay focused (and sell more product) but as Bob’s experience showed, scripts don’t guarantee you will be more present. Frankly, scripts tend to turn service moments into robotic encounters; they may help you remember what to say but can leave the recipient feeling invisible.

By contrast, when I visited the Pike Place Fish Market, I noticed that when a fishmonger focused on a customer, despite all the commotion going on around them, it was like they were the only people there.

Later, when I was filming at the market, I asked Shawn, one of the fishmongers, how he managed to be so consistently present. “I started working here just as a job,” he admitted. “It was monotonous, hard labor. But something happened to me and I realized I was serving people and making people happy. This gave me a plus in my life, and made me want to do it even more.

“When you’re being present, everything else falls into place. It gives you an advantage, not just as a salesperson, but as a person enjoying life. See, people come to the market, they’re grouchy, they don’t want to buy fish, they don’t have any money, life is horrible. They come here, they’re walking away, they’re holding their wife, they’re playing with their baby. All they did was buy fish—and experience a little bit of who we are.”

That’s when I began to understand what great customer service is. It isn’t about doing certain things; it’s about being a certain kind of person. It’s a commitment that shifts your focus from “me” to others. When you are in that frame of mind, you see people not as transactions but as individuals with unique needs. You are more likely to recognize what they need from you.

This week, look for opportunities to be more present for the people you serve—whether it’s your customers, coworkers, family or friends. Be There by giving them your undivided attention. Make Their Day with a kind, helpful word. Play with ideas that solve their problems. Make the interaction fun for both of you. Choose an attitude that puts others first.

When you make a commitment to serve others, as Shawn the fishmonger did, your customers will be so delighted they return again and again to experience how you made them feel. Like Shawn, you’ll also experience a “plus” in your life—the satisfaction of seeing the impact that your commitment has on others.

-John Christensen, CEO and Playground Director of ChartHouse Learning