The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Volume 16 | # 373
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In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it. » Robert Heinlein

Picture Imperfect Service

While our extended family was together for Thanksgiving, I gathered all of the grandkids for a quick photo. The best shots of kids aren't produced in a studio. Throw them half-disheveled on a back porch with natural lighting, and you'll often end up taking the future family heirloom shots.

After getting a particularly good shot, I headed to a local chain drugstore to use their "self-service" photo lab. I took out my camera's memory card and inserted it into the lab's computer.

While this isn't "cutting edge" technology any more, I found myself thinking how cool it was to be able to get pictures printed like this. You only print and pay for what you want, and the prices are really reasonable. Ah, technology is a great thing.

When I was done and had placed my order, the screen instructed me to remove my memory card. I couldn't. There was no button to press, and my card was inside the machine.

An employee walked up and asked if I could use some help. I informed her that I couldn't get my card out. She sneered, "Don't tell me you didn't use an adapter."

I looked up and said, "Uh…what adapter?" "The one you need to use that machine," she groaned. I offered "Well, apparently you don't need one… because it read the card and took my order." She snapped, "Yeah, but now its stuck, and I need to take the machine apart to get your card out."

I asked how I was supposed to know I needed an adapter, and she said, "Well, everyone with those kinds of cameras knows you need an adapter." I couldn't help push the issue and say, "How often do you have to open this machine?" She said, "This is the third time today."

I then suggested, "Well, maybe 'everyone' doesn't know you need an adapter?" I think that's when she stopped listening.

Over the next 5 minutes, she griped under her breath as she took the machine apart. When my memory card was returned, I said, "Thanks." But I really didn't mean it.

Sure, she helped me, but she was more interested in making sure I knew I had inconvenienced her. Instead of walking away grateful, I felt like an annoyance. And I'll make a note not to annoy them with my photos in the future.

Your team will likely address numerous customer misunderstandings and problems this week. Will your customers walk away feeling better or worse after interacting with you?

Cleaning Up Attitudes

My sons' Cub Scout troop had its annual fall campout recently. I was conned…uh… honored to become Cub Master this year. So, I was "in charge" this time.

Hey, I've run decent-sized business units as well as volunteer organizations before. How hard could playing sheriff at a 130-person campout be? (Okay, I delude myself when necessary.)

Everyone had fun, and we had only one near-broken leg, one decent-sized brush-burn, and one whittling accident. (My younger son inherited my knife-handling skills.) But we had a GP and an ER doctor in our group. Be prepared, indeed.

Being the leader, it was my duty to be the last person to leave our campground. After everyone from our group had departed, my wife reminded me that we were responsible for cleaning the bathrooms and showers adjacent to our site.

I, of course, pretended not to hear her. But she told me that we were not leaving until the job was done.

When I threw a (small) hissy fit, she told me, "Fine. You wait in the car. I'll do it." Needless to say, I was soon Cub Master/Assistant Janitor.

As I complained non-stop about what I was doing on a beautiful Sunday morning, I heard upbeat voices coming from the stalls and showers on the other side of the cinder block walls. When I walked around to the other side, three guys who looked like they were late for a golf outing were mopping, hosing, sweeping, and dumping garbage.

One looked up and said, "How ya' doing! It's a beautiful morning for cleaning toilets, huh?" I recognized that he, too, was a Cub Master. Another guy smiled and said, "Ain't it great to be a leader!?"

I asked him if I missed this part in the job description. He laughed, "Other duties as necessary, dude."

I was soon chuckling as my wife and I finished our Sunday morning "leadership workshop."  Ain't leadership great, indeed.

As we drove off, I realized that my shoulders weren't up around my ears anymore.  I can't say that cleaning public restrooms is something I'd look forward to again. (Note to self: delegate, delegate, delegate.)

But just being around folks who were able to laugh at a necessary job - that nobody really wanted - instantly improved my demeanor.

It's likely each of us will have tasks this week we'd prefer that we didn't. Will your attitude make them more or less palatable to the folks around you?

Get happiness out of your work or you may never know what happiness is. » Elbert Hubbard

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