Serve

A painting from my archives. This one  sold in 2007.

A painting from my archives. This one was 4′ x 4′ and sold in 2007.

Jim asked a world-class question: When did customer service become a firewall against serving customers? If you’ve had to call about a mistake on a bill or to try to get some support from your insurance provider you’ll appreciate his question. How many buttons do you have to push to get to a person? How many levels of supervisor do you need to ascend to get to the person who has the authority to serve you?

What does it meant to serve?

Quinn once told me that the world was ruined with the advent of the salad bar. He was far sighted (and funny) and recognized that it might at first be attractive to build a salad your own way but the trade-off, the loss, would be much greater than the free-will-illusion that the salad bar provided. Service would become equated with efficiency; it would become a cost saving strategy. Quinn suggested that the “salad bar concept” would forever redefine the essential relationship of the business; it would reduce the word “customer” to something consumable for the business. In other words, it would no longer matter whether or not a customer was happy because there would always be someone else to sidle up to the salad bar. In a salad bar world, the word “service” would forever be subject to a strange ongoing cost/benefit analysis. The society would shift the emphasis from service to others to service to self. Do you remember, after the introduction of the ATM, having to pay a fee to your bank if you needed to talk to a teller? Serve yourself. Save time. Do you remember when the airlines started charging travelers for bringing luggage? Or recall the introduction of extra fees for extra legroom? It may seem as if we have product choice but Quinn would tell us that we are forever standing at a salad bar.

What does it mean to serve others?

Martin Prechtel writes that transcending self-interest to put your life in service to the greater communal interest is called maturity. In order for the community to thrive, to grow and renew, the members must be oriented toward serving something greater than their own individual need. Without this necessity of service the society descends to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy.

What does it mean to serve something greater than you own self-interest?

I’m preparing to go over seas and do a workshop on “team,” so I’m asking many questions of people who are trying to facilitate teams in organizations. “What’s the greatest challenge you face?” I ask. The response is universal: trying to get employees invested in something other than their own personal gain. In my mind I can hear Quinn laughing; he’d call this  salad-bar-blowback. When customers become consumable, employees also become consumable. The essential relationship in business, the one it has with its customers, is merely a reflection of the relationship it has within itself. Vested action is not something that can be manufactured. One must care in order to be invested. Vested action is the blossom of service to others.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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