Always do more than is required of you.
?George S. Patton

Last week, we dove into the neuroscience of gratitude. Today, we will talk about how we can make our customers (at work or at home) more grateful to have us in their lives.

Your humble author is originally from the beautiful land of South Africa, and moving to the United States led to several bouts of cultural whiplash. For example, those who have lived entirely in the U.S. often don’t know that in virtually every other country on earth, tipping is not a thing (or is very limited). It’s true! Moving to the U.S. and discovering that many companies don’t actually pay their employees, but expect their customers to do so, took some serious adjustment.

Lest you begin to fear for the financial health of the servers at restaurants I frequent, you can rest easy. I tip because people rely on that money and I like to imagine I’m not too big a jerk. But I am not from a tipping culture, and I have never liked doing it.

Except for once…

?Because I travel for work, I spend a lot of time in taxis, another environment in which tipping is expected. One day I flew into Houston for a week of training and delicious BBQ. I stepped outside the airport and got in line to wait for a taxi. One arrived, a man stepped out, he took my bags, and I got in?the taxi.

I immediately noticed a difference. Instead of smelling like?cigarette smoke or cheap cologne, the?upholstery actually smelled clean. There wasn’t a speck of garbage to be seen. When the driver got in he immediately turned around and said, “Hi! I’m Sam. I’ll be your driver today. What temperature would you like the thermostat set at?”

I don’t think I’d ever been asked that question in a taxi before. I’m a skinny little beanpole and constantly cold, so I was pleased to choose the temperature myself.

Sam wasn’t done. He shifted the car into gear and then spoke again. “You may have noticed the selection of reading materials in the seat pocket in front of you. We have your weekly magazines like Time and Newsweek. We also have your dailies, such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Please help yourself.

“I’ve also got a few stations programmed into the radio. We can do classical, pop, hip hop, talk radio, or I can leave it off.?What’s your preference?”

My jaw just about hit the floor. I had never experienced such an enjoyable taxi ride. When I got out of that car I gave Sam a generous tip. It was the first time in my life that I actually wanted to.

What is interesting to me is that, as Sam’s customer, if he had asked me, “What would you like out of this taxi ride for it to be a great experience?” I would have likely said something like, “To not die? Yes, to get to my destination and not die.” What made this driver so great was his ability to provide me with things that I would never have known to ask for, but loved once received. He was brilliant at meeting my unspoken needs.

Later I called the taxi company Sam worked for and learned that that year Sam had earned a whopping $30,000 more in tips alone than the next highest-earning driver at the company. $30,000 more in tips than the next best performer, just because Sam knew how to give his customers what they didn’t even know they wanted.

?Regardless of whether we feel like a cog in some massive corporate wheel, or are working alone from home, or anything in between, we all have customers. At work our customer might be our boss, our coworkers, or our direct reports. Our customers might also be the actual customers who buy a product or service from our company. In our personal lives our customers could be members of our family, our friends, or neighbors. Regardless of who our customers might be, if we can find new and better ways to meet their unspoken needs, we can build relationships that will provide lasting benefit, for us and for them.

For Your Consideration

  1. Who are your?customers at work? Make a list, starting with your single most important customer. It might be your boss, a person in another department who uses your work, or a colleague. Based on your experiences with those people, what might be some of their unspoken needs? How could you meet those needs?
  2. Do the same exercise with those in your personal life. Who are your most important customers there? You might select a spouse, child, or other family member. Consider people outside your family as well, like friends and neighbors. What unspoken needs do they have that you could meet?
  3. Most people do not live their lives attempting to uncover the unspoken needs of those around them. There may be many on your list whose unspoken needs are a complete mystery to you. Who are those people? How could you go about discovering their unspoken needs? (Remember, you can’t simply ask them; unspoken needs are unspoken because the individual doesn’t even recognize the need themselves.)