Working remotely, I am sitting in a Starbucks with my laptop. (As you may have surmised, I’ve been having a substantive long-term relationship with the brand.) Across the way, a woman was also working away on her computer when…it happened. A keystroke run amok sends her beverage sailing across the table and onto the floor, unfailingly sweeping across her laptop and paperwork on it’s way down. She doesn’t react at first, staring in disbelief. You can imagine how she feels. Maybe you’ve even been there.
She goes up to the counter to request a rag to begin cleaning up the spill. Meanwhile, a barista goes to get a mop while another appears with a drink to replace the one now seeping through the keys of her laptop keyboard. When the barista returns with the mop she asks the woman, “Can we get you something to eat? Anything to make this day a little better for you?”
Apropos for this traumatic albeit poignant moment, I had just run across a quote from Mahatma Gandhi which will appear in my upcoming book about Mercedes-Benz USA. In it Gandhi suggested, “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
As you engage your work, keep this sentiment with you when a customer brings you a mess to clean up, or makes one before your eyes. Whether they are sheepish or demanding, they are your customer. This is itself a gift and a privilege, sometimes only realized once they are no longer.