If you are British or watch British television, you may have seen the advertisement for car insurance where the actor talks about “Three Things; service, service, service!” When I first saw it, I realised that service thinking has been on the decline for years. Haven’t you noticed how reluctant people are to render service to you, and how begrudgingly they do when they have to? It’s as if they are being forced to give service at gunpoint, instead of giving it willingly.

This isn’t the case everywhere. Some years ago, I took part in a conference on the island of Penang in Malaysia. We were told at the hotel that giving a tip to someone was actually an insult, as they considered it an honour to be able to render service to a guest. The only exception was if they had to carry heavy luggage, or perform some other major physical labour.

How different it is in the Western world. Here, service is often treated as though it was something that has to be done with the minimum of effort necessary to gain the maximum reward.

I once had a boss whose whole philosophy of life was based on this concept. He said on numerous occasions during meetings: “find out the maximum that they want, and the minimum that they will accept. Then give them that minimum, while charging for the maximum.” My attitude has always been to give the customer more than they ask for. This is probably the reason why he let me go after 11 months. His excuse was that he couldn’t afford to employ me anymore, as he needed to buy a new laser printer (ah, the Good Old Days, when a laser printer cost a month’s wages).

I've always striven to give more than I’m being paid for. Over the years, I've done such things as: adding a template system to a customer’s data entry system; added extra reports or made two versions of a report to satisfy two different departments within a bank; added extra buttons, functions, bells and whistles to input forms; all to give the customer what they wanted and needed. This is probably the reason why customers kept returning to me, while the other company eventually folded and was shut down.

Why is the attitude today always take, take, take, instead of give, give, give? Have we really become so selfish? Or is it that society has so reduced our expectations of receiving anything, that we are slowly being robbed of the ability to give? If so, I fear for the future.

So let’s be willing and eager to give people a little (or a lot!) more than they ask for, and let’s make the future a bright and kind place.

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