Paul Butler | Never Lose Sight of the Customer

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

I firmly believe that we are all meant to serve one another, whether we find ourselves in the role of being served or providing service. In essence, everyone is engaged in the realm of customer service, regardless of whether they are employees or entrepreneurs, as we all both receive and give service. 

One of the most disheartening observations I’ve made is how, at times, we lose sight of who our customers are and what they require from us. 

To illustrate this point, here are three examples: 

Recently, I reached out to a local government representative to seek clarity on a specific matter that significantly impacted our business. After patiently waiting for a response for a week, I decided to follow up. The representative expressed apologies for the delay and assured me that she would provide an answer to my rather straightforward question “shortly.” The issue, however, appeared to be that the term “shortly” was never precisely defined. I allowed another week to pass and followed up once more. 

In response to my second follow-up, one of her assistants scheduled a phone call with me for 3 p.m. on a particular day, with the understanding that she would be the one to call me. After waiting for 20 minutes without receiving the expected call, I decided to contact her office. I was informed that the local government representative had “let the afternoon slip away” and had forgotten to call me. 

Recognizing that email might be a more reliable means of communication, I kindly requested if she could email a response to my question. Subsequently, I was redirected to a colleague of hers who, unfortunately, has still not provided an answer to my question, even after three weeks have passed. 

It is truly regrettable that I believe this local government representative has lost sight of the fact that her constituents are, in essence, her customers. My guess is that the next time I’ll hear back from this person will be when we get closer to the elections. 

My second poignant example of someone losing sight of the customer takes me way back across the pond. I was serving as a regional finance director for a major hotel chain in Europe and was walking a property with the area manager, as the hotel was undergoing a major refurbishment. 

We saw an older couple struggling with their bags up a few steps to the hotel lobby in the distance from us. I drew it to his attention and suggested we rush over and help. He dismissed my request and said, “One of the lackeys will see to it.” I hadn’t heard the term “lackey” much before but recalled it as a derogatory term for someone in a servant role — a throwback to a bygone era of haves and have-nots; of the ruling class and those who should be considered fortunate enough to benefit from breadcrumbs falling from the table of the upper crust. 

As I ashamedly allowed myself to be led in the opposite direction, I glanced back to see this gray-haired couple pull their large suitcase up the last of the lobby steps, looking exhausted and disappointed before their stay began. 

My third and final example happened just recently. Like millions of others, we now tend to let our fingers do the walking when we want to buy products. We clicked and chose four new countertop chairs for our kitchen. Within two days they arrived but with a thud as they were thrown over our back gate by the delivery driver. 

Admittedly, it can be confusing in our new housing development where the front and back doors are, but clearly, the depositor of our goods wasn’t too keen to try and find out. He saw what worked for him, and over they came. Although he clearly had lost sight of the customer, we were delighted to be gifted two brand new chairs after reporting a minor scratch on the one that bounced around our back gate. 

May these three examples serve as a reminder to us all to never lose sight of the customer, regardless of our role or responsibility. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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