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“Treat everyone like a customer,” is a phrase I heard many years ago and I still employ today. It’s a foundation-based statement, meaning it could reside at the core of your overall business philosophy. In fact, it’s almost a perfect phrase because it’s very simple to relate to and very clear to understand.

It’s also fundamental in nature, and we could spend time meditating on its meaning and its application. The phrase is meant to remind us that kindness and servitude is the correct way to live our lives – all day and every day in all interactions. Yet, so often this is just not the case.

In our day-to-day lives we interact with our spouse, our kids, friends, coworkers – from our boss to those who report to us – neighbors, teachers, customers, the barista at the local coffee shop staff or team that brings you your lunch at your favorite diner. However, not all of those interactions leave us feeling great.

You know what I mean. So many of those interactions leave us with a bad taste in our mouths, doubting the essential principles of customer service in this day and age. I would argue the interactions where we feel the best are the interactions where someone is trying to help us. Where they are not ignoring us, arguing with us, disrespecting us, trying to prove us wrong and themselves right. Why does it feel like those conversations are so few and far between in today’s world?

In fact, many of us feel we’re constantly engaging in conversations where the sum total of the outcome is where we’re left ignored, argued out, and disrespected. I question how many customers would we have at the end of the day if we behaved that way with them?

So why in business are we not treating others like they are a customer?

In my experience, some people treat those they know the best the worst. They hide information, bark orders or disrespect workplace colleagues for no better reason than they can get away with it. Or, they come up with lame excuses like, “They don’t get it!” “They deserved it!” “They started it!” – always passing the buck and not offering a true solution to the problem at hand.

The first step to correct this is to start with me, not they. We need to ask ourselves why we behave the way we do. We need to look in the mirror and really work to understand who we are. We need to read books on the subject, dig into a faith-filled life, seek out and talk to mentors or just keep being that person who doesn’t understand why people don’t want to be around us.

The bottom line is we can either be the person who can’t reach goals and dreams, or we can commit to being better, starting with treating others better and affording them the respect they deserve.

Once we have opened our eyes to the fact we are the ones who need to change, the next step is to own our behavior and our results. Once we own our behavior and the results that it produces, then we can start treating everyone like a customer.

We must apply this to every interaction, single phone call, email and text. We should focus on making a positive difference in the lives of those individuals we work with and those we share our lives with. We should smile when we look at people and we should be kind. We should put ourselves in the shoes of those we are communicating with and then ask ourselves, “Am I being helped? Do I feel served? Appreciated? Respected?

If not, then we are not treating others like a customer. I’m a man of deep faith, and I take solace in the infinite wisdom of the following passage:

“Real wisdom, Gods wisdom, begins with holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” – James 3:17

Troy Clogg is the founder and president of Troy Clogg Landscape Associates in Wixom, Mich. He is a frequent Snow Magazine contributor and a 2010 Leadership Award recipient.