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.


  • Ross Hill
    Feb 09, 2008 - 19:12 pm

    Hi Steve,

    I think that is a great way of looking at it – I’ve felt myself working with my customers more and more lately and it is beneficial in so many ways.

    Cheers, Ross.

  • Steve Yastrow
    Feb 11, 2008 - 04:09 am

    Ross –

    Doesn’t it seem like your customers appreciate “with” so much more than doing something “for” them, in most cases? The world has changed!

  • Amanda Cullen
    Feb 11, 2008 - 10:53 am

    If a customer allows you to do something with him, he is signaling that he is willing to trust you. By creating situations that allow us to work with our customers, we are building trust, which ultimately leads to loyalty. Any waiter can take my order and serve me, but I would trust and request in the future a waiter who can recommend the best dishes on the menu based on my preferences.

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