I started my career in the hospitality business, where great “service” was considered to be a prime virtue. What this means is that hotel employees were trained to do things “for” customers – to serve them.
Yes, doing something “for” a customer can be a good thing, and it’s certainly better than doing something “to” a customer. But there are many opportunities when it is possible to rise above customer service, going beyond “for” to “with.” Instead of doing a presentation for your customer, can you engage in dialogue with him? If you are a restaurant server, is it better to pick out wine for the customer, or work with her to find the right wine?
This is not the 19th century. We do not feel the need to be served. More often, we feel the need to collaborate. Sure, you don’t want to collaborate with every waiter or hotel bellman, but even in those instances it is possible for a “service” employee to create a feeling of “with” if the customer is open to it. And, if the customer is open to “with,” a great opportunity for a relationship-building encounter exists.