It’s been an interesting week. I had the opportunity to have a heart to heart with a friend and longtime client yesterday who asked for a little more… A little more attention, a little more time, a little more responsiveness. Our conversation reminded me how difficult it can be to manage growth and expectations at the same time.

When I received this story from my sister today, it was yet another reminder that we *all* play a role in delivering exemplary customer service… all we have to do is do it. No one can make you serve customers well. That’s because great service is a choice. Best-selling business author Harvey Mackay tells a wonderful story about a cab driver that proved this point:

I was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing I noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for me.

He handed me a laminated card and said:

“I’m Wally, your driver. While I’m loading your bags in the trunk I’d like you to read my mission statement.”

Taken aback, I read the card. It said:

Wally’s Mission Statement: To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment.

I was blown away. Especially when I noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside: spotlessly clean!

As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, “Would you Like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf.”

I said jokingly, “No, I’d prefer a soft drink.”

Wally smiled and said, “No problem. I have a cooler up front with regular and Diet Coke, water and orange juice.”

Almost stuttering, I said, “I’ll take a Diet Coke.”

Handing me my drink, Wally said, “If you’d like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and USA Today.”

As we were pulling away, Wally handed me another laminated card. “These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you’d like to listen to the radio.”

Then he advised me of the best route to my destination for that time of day and let me know that he’d be happy to chat and tell me about some of the sights or, if I preferred, to leave me with my own thoughts.

“Tell me, Wally,” I asked the driver, “have you always served customers like this?”

Wally smiled into the rear view mirror. “No, not always. In fact, it’s only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do. Then I heard the personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day.

“He had just written a book called “You’ll See It When You Believe It.” Dyer said that if you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you’ll rarely disappoint yourself. He said, ‘Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t be a duck; be an eagle! Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.’

“That hit me right between the eyes,” said Wally. “Dyer was really talking about me. I was always quacking and complaining, so I decided to change my attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their drivers. The cars were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly, and the customers were unhappy. So I decided to make some changes. I put in a few at a time. When my customers responded well, I did more.”

“I take it that has paid off for you,” I said.

“It sure has,” Wally replied. “My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year I’ll probably quadruple it. You were lucky to get me today; I don’t sit at cabstands anymore. My customers call me for appointments on my cell phone or leave a message on my answering machine. If I can’t pick them up myself, I get a reliable cabbie friend to do it and I take a piece of the action.”

Wally was phenomenal. He was running a limo service out of a Yellow Cab. I’ve probably told that story to more than fifty cab drivers over the years, and only two took the idea and ran with it. Whenever I go to their cities, I give them a call. The rest of the drivers quacked like ducks and told me all the reasons they couldn’t do any of what I was suggesting.

Wally the cab driver made a different choice. He decided to stop quacking like ducks and start soaring like eagles.

[Note: Thanks, Nancy, for trusting us enough to have that conversation. And for reminding me that the Rare Bird’s success has been due in no small part to soaring like eagles, not quacking like ducks. -Jim]

One Comment

  • Kelli Schmith
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Wayne Dyer’s book that you mention is one of the first of his work that I ever read. I smiled when I saw your reference to him. Cheers!

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