An example of outstanding customer service attitude, from somewhere I did not expect. It all started at a red light.

We spend a lot of time training customer service people how to deal with conflict, how to respond in difficult situations. We talk a lot about how to deliver value, go above and beyond. Sometimes it’s the simplest example that pinpoints the essence of good service: in intention, attitude and approach.

Queue the theme music to 24 

The following happened between 5:46pm and 5:47pm

Scene: In the Chaos of the City, the Middle of the Road

Have you ever experienced those “Squeegee Kids” ? You know, the ones who jump onto your car when you stop at a red light and throw water (sometimes dirty) on your windshield and attempt to clean it for you?

Here are the things I really dislike about this “service”:

  1. The water is not always clean – therefore the cleaning doesn’t help, it makes things nasty (sometimes)
  2. They jump on your car to do this without even asking, I don’t always have any cash. That makes me feel bad – taking a service, then not being able to pay for it.
  3. When you try and stop them, they totally ignore you – I don’t really appreciate being ignored – who does?

Overall, quite a negative customer experience…This past Thursday, I was stopped at a light, I had no change, I was in a rush. All this makes for a poor mindset to have someone throw themselves all over your windshield while you are stopped at a red light. Of course, this is exactly when it happened. All of a sudden I looked over and before I could even open my window to tell them, “I have no money, thanks but no thanks” my entire windshield was totally soaked.

We Choose Our Responses

I wasn’t very pleased, but as I watched this “Squeegee Kid” clearing the window (trying to figure out a way to get him to stop), I noticed he was really doing his best to do a good job, his water was clean, my windshield was starting to shine. I was surprised – I had gone into this horrified by the situation, convinced I was going to end up with a greasy mess all over my car, and now I was “wowed”. This made me feel even worse, I didn’t have any change to offer him. I could not pay him for his service. This guy had really given it his all. He came over to the driver side for the “compensation” and this is where I observed one of the purest, truest examples of outstanding service anyone could ever find:

I looked at him apologetically and said ” Je m’excuse (my intention had been to say I’m sorry), J’ai pas d’argent, mais merci beaucoup pour le bon travaille”, (I don’t have any money/cash but thank you for the wonderful job) I genuinely meant this, and I am pretty sure I repeated “Je m’excuse” at least another time.

He responded with a wide smile, “You have no reason to ever excuse yourself Madame, don’t do that ever… it’s okay, I have no money either.” He said warmly, with genuine intent: “Ne vous excusez jamais” (Never excuse yourself).

“I Have No Money Either”

I was totally taken aback. This kind, young street kid did his very best, he put in complete effort in his job, he still smiled when he didn’t get compensated, and he went out of his way to go beyond what he had to by trying to make me feel better, letting me know it was okay.

This man demonstrated all the qualities of true, exceptional customer service:

  • Being genuine.
  • Being empathetic.
  • Taking pride in ones work, giving it your all, not because of what you will get out of it, but because you take pride in what you are doing and you just want to help.
  • Making the customer feel good, and going out of his way to do it.
  • Being reassuring.
  • Leaving the interaction on a positive note, being able to turn something that could be perceived as unpleasant into a win for everyone.
  • Keeping the big picture in mind, not being self centered.
  • Changing a customers perspective and redirecting their previous negative experiences, by being the difference.
  • Creating an experience that stays in the customers mind and heart, for days – probably for life – all based on a few words.


Working from the heart

Squeegee Kids face challenges every day, they don’t live in safe environments like a lot of people do. Comforts of home, receiving recognition, things we value in our lives, by our standards, they lack. Yet this young man – in one minute – provided deep lessons of customer service – lessons in humanity – without trying, without knowing, simply by living in intention.

True Service

The challenge in customer service is not how nicely you smile when things go well, and when you can help – or get what you want. The true measure of customer service skill and dedication is when you face a situation where things do not go as planned. it’s about character and dedication.

These “kids” live the smile in customer service – “at your service” – something that if more people had, in business or in life, truly can change the world.

If you were in the same position, or your service team members were, is this how it would play out?

How much do people do because they have to and it’s their job, vs. because they want to, and love to?


Do you work from the heart?