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My recent journey to Morocco was nothing short of a revelation. The country’s landscapes, rich history, vibrant culture, and the warmth of its people left an indelible mark on my soul. In the lead-up to my trip, well-intentioned friends and family bombarded me with warnings about earthquakes, global crises, food, and water safety concerns. But, I approached my adventure with a blend of caution and exhilaration.

Every city I visited, every encounter I had, I made it a mission to connect with the people on a deeper level. I sought to understand their lives, what they do, and what brings them joy. Along the way, I stumbled upon incredible stories of dedication and devotion to service.

There was the spice vendor who proudly declared, “I’m the torchbearer of my family’s spice shop, spanning three generations. I’ve inherited the art from my father and grandfather. My purpose is to make people happy, and ensure this legacy thrives for generations to come.

Then, there was the skilled shoemaker who shared, “Every interaction I have is a testament to Morocco, my beloved home. I want every impression to be a positive one, one that you’ll share with others, and return for more.

But, it was a man named Moustafa, a 38-year-old working at a Marrakesh Riad, who etched an everlasting memory. He served mint tea with such grace, it felt like a mesmerizing dance. He was unwavering in his commitment to making our experience exceptional. He escorted us through the labyrinthine medina to ensure our safety, working tirelessly from dawn till dusk, always with a grateful smile. In a rare moment alone at breakfast, Moustafa confided in me about his life. He’d been with the Riad for five years, harboring dreams of one day visiting the United States. I complimented him on his exceptional service and attention to detail, to which he responded with words that struck deep into my heart: “Service is our life. Without you, we do not exist…we die.

Stunned, I asked, “What do you mean?

His eyes dropped as he replied, “I live with my mother and three sisters, and I contribute to our family’s livelihood. People are afraid to come to Morocco sometimes, and without tourists, we struggle to survive. Each guest is precious, and without you, I would be out of a job.

This eye-opening interaction forced me to reevaluate the level of service, or often lack thereof, that we’ve grown accustomed to in the United States. It left me thinking how impactful service truly is.

Inquiring further, I asked, “Who instilled this sense of service in you?

Moustafa explained, “Our leaders. We recognize the value of each customer. We understand how much a guest invests in their stay here. We are aware of costs, from taking care of our guests to covering employee salaries, breakfasts, and supplies. We understand the consequences if we lose a guest, especially during challenging times like after the earthquake or during the scorching summer when tourism dips. We do what we can.

I expressed my gratitude to Moustafa for his candid conversation and for adding a special dimension to my journey.

Upon returning to the United States, my “service radar” was on high alert. Sadly, the absence of eye contact, lack of attention, a simple verbal welcome, or even a thank you seemed to be the norm. Yet, there was one standout – a fellow who went above and beyond to guide me through a store, sharing insights and customer reviews about “senior” dog food. Louie and I left the store with smiles of appreciation.

Reflecting on my experiences, I couldn’t help but draw a connection to a training session I facilitated years ago with Starbucks partners. The employees had been requesting additional pay and support that the company couldn’t immediately provide. Instead of a simple refusal, leadership turned it into a teaching moment. We held up an oversized dollar bill, demonstrating the costs of rent, electricity, products, employee wages, benefits, and more. Then, we revealed a corner of the dollar bill, representing the company’s bottom-line profit. It was a visual reminder of how the money was spent and the critical roles employees played in driving sales and delivering exceptional service.

So, how can leaders impact the service provided by their employees?

1. Emphasize the Impact: Leaders must clearly communicate to their teams the critical role they play in both the top and bottom lines of the business. Employees need to understand that their dedication directly affects the company’s success.
2. Set Clear Expectations: Clearly defining the expected behaviors at every stage of the customer interaction is essential. Leaders must provide guidance, training, and support to help employees consistently meet these expectations.
3. Quantify the Value: Leaders should help employees comprehend the average sale and the true cost of customer defection. This highlights the financial repercussions of each interaction and underscores the importance of customer retention.

Leadership has the power to transform service from a task into an impactful mission. It’s about instilling a sense of purpose and the understanding that every customer interaction holds a key to a thriving future.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffet