Your answer to this question will help determine your success in life and business

By Jim Whitt

I walked into an optometry shop looking for a new pair of glasses. I spotted someone who I thought was an employee sitting at a desk. She looked up at me but didn’t say anything so I thought she must be a customer waiting to be helped.

I looked at the displays and tried on frames for about 15 minutes when the woman at the desk finally asked, “May I help you?” I thought the fact that I had tried on frames for a quarter of an hour might have been a clue but I held my tongue and simply told her I was looking for a pair of rimless frames. She proceeded to show me frames that were not rimless so I showed her a pair that were rimless. In an apparent attempt to educate me on proper optometric nomenclature she said, “Those are drill mounts.”

Rather than getting into the weeds about what constitutes a rimless frame I simply said, “Okay.” After looking at several “drill mounts” I found a pair I liked but didn’t care for the purple-hued temples. She said I could order the same model in a different color.

A couple of days later she called to inform me that the frames I ordered had been discontinued. I asked if she could find a pair that was similar. She told me that I could come back and look at the frames they had in stock. Since I had already done that and none of them suited my taste I asked if she could search online or through catalogues to find something similar to what I wanted. “Oh,” she exclaimed. “I don’t have time to look through catalogues!” Really? I recalled the image of her sitting idly for 15 minutes when she could have been helping me find what I was looking for.

Experience has taught me that trying to communicate with the clueless is an exercise in futility. So, I asked to speak to a manager. When the manager came on the line I shared my “customer service” experience with him. He apologized and agreed to conduct the search the clueless woman refused to do.

The woman may have had many problems but time was not one of them. Her problem was caring. She didn’t care enough to spend her time serving a customer. Caring is the single most critical customer service trait. I don’t care what business you’re in. Do you care enough to solve a problem for someone else? Because that is what customer service is.

I had a problem when I walked into that store. When the woman saw me she didn’t care enough to get up off her gluteus maximus to help solve that problem. I had to walk her through the problem-solving process with minimal participation on her part. When that solution ultimately failed she didn’t care enough to help me find another solution. She had time, she just didn’t care.

How do you teach someone to care? You can’t. Either you do or you don’t. Caring has nothing to do with talent. If you don’t care, your greatest expectation in life is mediocrity.

People who care find solutions. People who care don’t give up when the solution requires energy and effort. People who care get high on helping other people. They get an endorphin rush when they help solve a problem for someone else. It isn’t about them, it’s about others. It’s a fundamental principle of human behavior. If you want to succeed in life and business, you have to serve others. The ultimate irony is when you serve others, you serve yourself. You’ll literally succeed in spite of yourself.

This doesn’t just apply to external customers. It applies to internal customers — the people you work with every day.  People who care pitch in to help coworkers. They go above and beyond the call of duty. They have positive attitudes and that rubs off on others in the organization. They don’t complain about problems, they find solutions to problems. They are team players. They do whatever it takes to get the job done.

So the question is, “Do you care?” Your answer to that question will largely determine how successful you’ll be in life and business.

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