This article first appeared in the opinion section of Aftermarket Newson September 20, 2013. It was originally written as a guest commentary by Lonnie Mayne.
Photo taken by Flickr user FunkBrothers
Two Feet for Red Shoes
Gratitude follows awareness so naturally that these two pillars of Red Shoes are more like a pair of feet than separate columns. I had an experience last month in Bryant Park, Manhattan, which perfectly illustrated this point.
I was in the middle of a four-day business trip on the East Coast, and I was trying my best to stay centered and serene between flights and business discussions. I had stepped out into the wooded park only to find that even the sanctuary of nature seemed overrun by the stereotypical mania that Manhattan’s known for.
The pace of life, combined with the sheer concentration of activity within and around me, flattened my perspective to see only an overwhelming wall of commotion.
Stop and Separate Life’s Dimensions
There, in the middle of Bryant Park, acting on a friend’s recommendation, I put on my headphones and pressed “play” on a 10-minute meditation cycle. I closed my eyes and mentally abandoned my crowded surroundings.
As the cycle ended, I unplugged and opened my eyes. The setting had undergone a remarkable transformation. What was previously a flattened wall of noise and motion had separated and settled into thousands of distinct dimensions: Twenty boys and girls wrapped up a YMCA-YWCA field trip, a dog hurtled toward a tennis ball to my far left, women conversed, children played, men paced, and, of course, the sun shone in the sky.
At that moment, freshly aware and newly present for the life I was sharing space with, I experienced a feeling of gratitude for the individuals and separate dimensions that formed the world around me. Just as soon as that awareness kicked in, freeing me to see the individual stories unfolding around me, I was struck by appreciation for it all.
Why? Because of the feelings and sense of "upliftment" it conjured within me. I appreciated it — felt gratitude for it — because, in its small way, it helped me.
To me, that is gratitude: An awareness and an admission that people, places, and things have helped us through every step of our lives.
So, on top of the standard challenge of saying “thank you” more often, I challenge you to mentally replace those words with “you helped me.”
Make sure that message is conveyed in your words. That is what people need to hear, feel, and know — not just that they did something “nice” or “thoughtful” or “selfless,” but that on a very internal and personal level, they helped you in your life’s journey.
Providing a Red Shoes Experience in service and leadership requires sincere gratitude. We must be driven to stand out and serve others by our own firsthand understanding of how it feels to be helped when we need it. Possessing awareness and gratitude, and being able to share in the customer’s gratitude, is powerful for any business wanting to deliver exceptional customer service.
The Face of Gratitude
It’s easy to hide behind our professional roles and not put a face on our company. But if you can step out and deliver a customer service experience that shows and elicits natural gratitude from the customer, then the value of your business grows exponentially in your customers’ eyes. No matter how small or insignificant an act may seem, you will have proven to customers that you are not a faceless foreign entity existing outside the boundaries of their life—you are there with them, helping them take one more step in their life’s journey.
To my friend who recommended the meditation cycles: You helped me. To the people, pets, and plants in Bryant Park that day: You helped me. To all those who listen to me go on and on: You helped me. To Amy Antenora at aftermarketNews, who has given me this opportunity to publish my thoughts: You helped me. To the hard challenges, inconvenient situations, and obstacles that have made me who I am today: You helped me.
To those of you who put on your red shoes and stand out through helpful acts: You help me, too.