Sometimes people say one thing and mean something else. Sometimes they don’t say anything at all, but you still know what they mean.  Communication is a cornerstone to delivering outstanding customer service.  The key is to listen, react and adapt.


A few weeks ago I went to a restaurant that I had gone to several times before for lunch. On these previous lunchtime visits, as soon as we were seated the server would bring over a basket of delicious home-made potato chips.  However that night at dinner, there weren’t any chips.


The server came by and I asked her, “Are there any chips?”  She informed me that was only at lunch.  Even without the chips, the restaurant had great food and I would return again – for lunch or dinner.


A week later I did return for another dinner and made a comment to a different server about those delicious chips.  She also explained that they were served only at lunch, yet just a few minutes later she returned with a basket of chips.  She said, “Next time you come in for dinner, just ask and we’ll get them for you.”


Now why didn’t the first server get me the chips while the second server was only too happy to bring them?  The second time I didn’t specifically ask for the chips.  I just made a comment about them.  The second server didn’t have to read my mind.  It was obvious that I wanted the chips.  She didn’t just hear. She listened.  She knew I didn’t want an explanation.  I just wanted the chips.  And, she just wanted to take care of her customer.


The lesson: People can say one thing and mean something else.  Or sometimes they don’t have to say anything at all.  It is obvious.  Just listen.  As the old cliché goes, read between the lines.  Or, put another way, it’s not mind reading!

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  As a professional speaker and author, Shep helps companies develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs and books, please contact (314) 692-2200. Email:  Web: For information on customer service training, go to

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