I was on the bus this morning, sitting alone, and realizing I would be using my iPod and not engaged in conversation when I heard the friendly driver explaining her approach to customer service to fellow riders. The fellow passengers wanted to know why she was so exceptionally engaging (she hands out the Metro to everyone who boards the bus) while several of the other drivers barely grunt a “hello” as we put our fare into the collection box.
Today’s driver explained that the training does include several modules of customer service. Just before our departure time, and after a lengthy explanation of how drivers are taught to respond to questions, the driver shared that other drivers often get a bit jealous of all the emails, letters and feedback Halifax Transit receives about her. She told us, “And I just tell them, it’s because I am nice!” Indeed she is. But it begs the question, why is it that more of us are not experienced as helpful, caring and attentive in our workplace? Aren’t most of us “nice”?
Many would say that is the problem, that most of us are not nice. But I would strongly disagree. I think most people I meet are kind, are helpful and want to make a difference. What separates this driver from other drivers is not that she is nice but rather that she is interested in others. I think this is the quality we most often take for granted in our interactions, that we show interest. I found it interesting that these passengers would be passing judgement on drivers when my experience is that the most common interaction between us in the cue is grunting as well. Perhaps professionalism dictates that we should expect more of the one in the uniform who is being paid for her/his service. But is kindness really dependent on salary? Isn’t that what we all expect from each other and ourselves?
Again I believe we are kind. I think it is a false impression to assume the reaction we often receive from others is a lack of “niceness” or kindness. If we knew what others needed we would respond. I believe that. The challenge is to be interested in the other, to genuinely take the time, even just a few seconds, to be interested in someone else. I believe that tiny extra piece of effort makes all the difference in the world. This driver knows that when it is cold or rainy we don’t want to be standing outside for long. She knows that once aboard the bus we might like to read the news. This driver knows we may have left a cranky spouse or son or daughter or bracing ourselves for a hard day at the office. So this driver has taken the time to consider our needs and made the effort, based on taking an interest, to do something. And no surprise, people notice.