By Scott Westerman
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“Care about the outcome.” 

It had taken weeks to orchestrate the call. Five participants from various silos within the corporation were on the line to hear my pitch for a sponsorship opportunity with our alumni association. I asked the question I always ask at the start of these conversations.

“Tell me about your community relations philosophy.”

A voice on the other end of the line said the following. I remember it well because it seared in to my brain.

“We are only interested in doing things that will get us more customers.”

Yeah.. That’s a given, my friend. I wouldn’t  have arranged this call if I didn’t think you were interested in improving your bottom line. And your putting that at the forefront of the conversation totally gives me a sense for what you think of the communities in which you operate.

They are nothing more than faceless body-pods in The Matrix, created solely to house the organisms that will provide you with the fuel to perpetuate your company.

The spate of social media tales of corporations who teach their team members to intimidate customers who want to leave reminded me that too many of us forget Zig Ziglar’s simple wisdom on this topic:

“You can get everything you want by helping your customer get everything they want.”

As the great customer service guru, Frank Eliason puts it, “Focus on me and my needs. It is not that difficult, and it is what you would want if you were talking to someone.”

There’s that Golden Rule again. Treat others as you would want to be treated.

Think of the businesses you love. I’ll bet that you love them because they make you feel like the most important person in the room. I eat at the Kellogg Center State Room often enough that everyone there knows my name. But the frequency of being there isn’t what does it.

  1. I always wear my name tag. I don’t take it for granted that they will remember me.
  2. I’m interested to hear about what’s happening in their lives. Servers, especially, are often treated like non-persons. (Who served you lunch today? Can you remember their name or anything about them?) I love hearing their stories and have sometimes been able to add a little value to their lives.
  3. I express gratitude. One of my habits at those conference cocktail hours we’ve all experienced is to purposefully tell the bar tenders, “Thank you for being here. You probably don’t hear that enough, but I want you to know that I appreciate you.”
  4. I never ask for anything until I’ve given something, even if it’s just my full attention to what they are saying.

I recently had a conversation with an uber successful friend about an event we had both been invited to attend. “When you get to my level,” he said, “you don’t go to these type of things.”

Too often, we think that achievement or job titles give us the privilege of following a different set of rules from the rest of the world. In fact it’s the exact opposite. John F. Kennedy is attributed with the maxim, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.”

The more status you attain, the more important it is to stay tuned to the needs of the less fortunate. To paraphrase one of the best CEOs in history, “What ever you do to my team members, you’re also doing to me.” Read Matthew 25:40 to find out that CEO’s name.

We are all put on this earth for one reason and one reason only, to alleviate suffering. Or in MBA speak, to add value to the customer.

A better answer to my community relations philosophy question might be,

“We like to associate our brand with activities that help strengthen our community and the people in it. When we are successful in that endeavor, our business thrives, too.”

So be intentional about adding value to every relationship.

“I don’t know what your destiny will be,” wrote Albert Schweitzer ,”but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Dr. Wayne Dyer put it this way, “Our intention creates our reality.”

It’s interesting to note that the level of attention given to the customer is typically inversely proportional to the effective competition for the product.

Eventually “what goes around, comes around”. If you don’t treat your customer with the same level of respect and attention that you would expect to receive, they will ultimately find someone else who will.

In the end, actions directly reflect intentions.

If your intention is to create a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship, your behavior better reflect it.