I was standing, next in line, in a supermarket queue where two employees were having a great chat among themselves. They were warm, kind and displayed eye contact and open body language towards each other—they were even smiling.

However, when they finished their chat, I was met with no eye contact, no smile, robotic body language (not leaning in to greet me) and an uneven tone of voice that delivered the one word I detest most in customer service … ‘next?’

Geez, was it something I said?

It got me thinking that how you do anything is how you do everything. I sometimes remind myself of this when I feel I am slipping into ‘less than average’ behaviour.

What disturbs me is not that the lady in the supermarket doesn’t know how to serve with kindness and care—she had demonstrated clear capability of these humanistic behaviours—but that she chose to behave differently based on my role (the customer) and her role (the employee) in that moment.

The service issues you witness in your workplace and experiences as a customer are less about a person’s capability and more about the choices they make.

Life is all about choices. How often do we see people trapped in their everyday habits? Are they part numb, part sleepwalking, part frightened or part indifferent?

The great thing about life is we get to keep choosing how we want to be in each moment. Not just the moments when we are on stage in front of people (customers) but when we are on stage with people in everyday life.

When I worked at McDonald’s, in my early teens, there was a sign on the wall before you entered the front of house service area that said Smile you’re about to go on stage!

I’d pull down that sign now and replace it with Smile! Life is a stage, and you only get one performance regardless of whether you are back or front of the house.

We all serve regardless of our roles, titles and responsibilities. We all make choices in how we give and relate to people each day: our peers, team members, suppliers, contractors and yes, our customers. Choose your best thoughts, your best words, your best gestures and your best actions.

Choose to smile even when you’re out the back making cheeseburgers; if not for anyone else, then for you.

Jaquie Scammell
“Love Being in Service”