The Key to it all

By Katharine C. Giovanni, CCS

Would you like to know who the first person to teach me about customer service was?

My mother.

I grew up in the 1960’s in New York City in a brownstone, so we didn’t have a management company (or a concierge) to help us when we needed something. 

I often came home from school and would find the strangest people in our house. One day I found my mother and our mailman in the basement looking at our boiler. Another day, my mother convinced the doorman from down the street to leave his post so that he could climb a very high ladder and change a light bulb. My mother had the most uncanny knack for getting people to do things for her!

How did she do it?

Watch out now … her method is so offbeat that it will blow your mind …

She was nice to them!!!!

My mother not only knew their names, but she would take the time to talk to everyone, ask about their family and would always smile. Everyone loved her because she was so warm and friendly. Plus, she treated everyone exactly the same!   It didn’t matter to her who they were, what they looked like, or what job they had … she treated them all with the same friendly smile and attitude. She knew every store owner’s name and would chat with them as she did her errands … George at the hardware store, Mr. Frankel at the cleaners … all of them would drop what they were doing when she walked in. Why? Because they liked her. She treated them with warmth, respect and dignity. Unfortunately, she died from breast cancer in 1990 at the age of 58, but her message lives on!

My mother taught me that one of the keys to life was to be warm, friendly, approachable and treat everyone with respect and love.  A message that I have carried and shared my entire life.

That being said, the other day I received the following story from a friend of mine. I think it’s a good reminder to us all to treat everyone with respect, no matter who they are.  It shouldn’t matter what job they hold, who they are, what they look like, or even how much money they have. Every life is significant and everyone is important.

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz.

I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read
the last one:

“What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times.

She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.

Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

“Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

I’ve never forgotten either. That’s why I know that the wonderful woman who cleans the ladies room at the Capital City Club in Raleigh NC is named Ophelia … a warm and friendly woman with a brilliant smile who is a lot of fun to talk to!

Thanks Mom!

Until next time,

Katharine