January 15, 2016

In the immortal words of the late, great David Bowie, “We can be heroes, just for one day.” , and to become a hero, even if it’s just in the moment.

Thank you for your patience: Returning to a local chai shop to inquire about gift cards for the second time (“They’re coming soon!” I was promised weeks ago by the manager). Still no gift cards. Without any hint of frustration or disappointment (I think), I asked, “Do you have an ETA? I need to get a gift for someone who loves your chai.” The employee meekly reached into her apron pocket and handed over a coupon for a free chai: “I’m so sorry; they should be coming soon!” The result: I’m no more or less loyal to this shop, but I am impressed that a front-line employee is empowered to spend money to keep a customer happy.

Common courtesy is dead: “This ‘me-first’ mentality has got to stop”: the lament of a Mountain Host at a small Lake Tahoe-area snow ski mountain. As evidenced by the dozens and dozens of skis and poles sitting flat, smack in the middle of pathways and common areas, rather than leaning against the multiple racks provided just a few feet away for exactly this purpose. The Host continued, “People ski up, pop out of their skis, and just walk off without another thought. We have to remind them, ‘Hey, guess what? You’re not the only person skiing on this mountain!’”

Timing is everything: A website pops a familiar question as I am beginning my customer service experience: “Are you willing to take a survey about your experience today?” Sure, I reply. They immediately remove me from their site, where I haven’t even started my transaction, and pop me into a questionnaire. I have to answer negatively to questions like, “Were you able to resolve your issue or question today?” because my experience with them has yet to begin.

We spend a good bit of every day as customers to someone. What we notice about these moments and what we learn from them say as much about us as about the service providers.

Read another article from our In the moment series, or share your own experience in the comments below.

Monica Norton is a content marketer for Zendesk and a frequent contributor to Relate. A former journalist and reformed advocate of the serial comma, Monica has wanted to be a writer ever since she penned her first (and last) novel in the 6th grade. Find her on Twitter: @monicalnorton.