I was in the waiting area when the woman rushed in, snapped her umbrella closed, shifted her parcels to balance her load, and approached the receptionist.
“Hello; could you tell me what time Mr. Person-Next-Door will be in today?”
The clerk smiled apologetically; this was clearly not the first time she had been asked a question like this. “We are no longer the same practice,” she said. “And so, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what their schedules are.”
The woman put her packages on the floor and stood again. “Oh. Well . . . will he be in at some point today?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know.”
“Okay, well do you think you’ll be here when he arrives?”
“I will be here until five,” she said, still—against all odds—warm and friendly.
She could have said,
But she didn’t. She just hung in there with the woman, hearing her, being present.
“Oh good! Surely they’ll be in by then. Can I just leave this with you?”
“Of course. You’ll let them know they are here?”
The woman was picking out packages one by one, “What? Oh yes. I’ll leave them a message.” She plucked one package on the desk. “This one is for Person-one. Can you just write her name on it? I forgot. That’s it. ‘Person-one.’ Perfect.”
To be fair, there was not a line of people waiting. The place was actually pretty dead other than the woman who usurped all the receptionist’s time. Still, I’m sure she had things to do.
“Oh I didn’t put the name on this one either. It’s for Person-two. Can you . . .?”
She thanked her, propped the door open with her foot while she opened the umbrella out in the rain, and then she was off. The receptionist turned back to her computer and continued working.
I approached the reception desk, greeted her, and said, “Wow! I’ve led workshops on customer service and I could not have done better myself. That was amazing!”
“Oh,” she said, waving off my compliment, “Thanks! I didn’t mind.”
“Clearly. You were so kind and patient with her!”
“Well, it’s raining. I just put myself in her place. I wouldn’t have wanted to take those packages in and out of my car in the rain either.”
“And that,” I told her, “is the key to good customer service.”
Put yourself in the other’s place; see through their eyes. It’s a good rule for customer service. And, ya know, for life.