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The Problem With Making Assumptions in Client Service

By Joey Havens

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As I have shared previously, my brother, Mike, has a unique ability to bring humor to moments that simply bring you to tears laughing. One Sunday after church, we were having a family luncheon with my parents, Pop Joe and Mom, Mike, his wife Joy, my sister Mitzi, her husband Tim, and my wife CeCe at a local restaurant in Batesville, Mississippi. It was a hot summer day and we were enjoying a southern favorite—ice cold tea—as we waited. As you might guess, Sunday after church in a small town with few restaurant choices makes for a crowded and SLOW dining experience. However, we were having a great time visiting and catching up on family current events and stories while we waited.

Our young waitress was very attentive and came by frequently to fill our tea glasses. Mike’s first glass did not have a lot of ice so he had asked her for a little more. She skillfully turned the pitcher to the side to allow the ice to flow freely into Mike’s glass and then topped it off with tea. As she made her third round filling our glasses, when she got to Mike’s glass, again she skillfully let the ice slide out first and then filled it with tea. On her fourth round, she again piled the ice up on Mike’s glass until it would only hold a little tea and ice was falling out when he picked up his glass. 

We had all began to notice that Mike’s tea glass was overflowing. He looked at his glass of ICED tea said, “If she comes back around again to fill my glass, I’m going to have to go out to the truck and get my ice chest.”  

People in the restaurant started looking in our direction as we were laughing so hard. We laughed until our food came and Mike did not let her fill his tea glass again. 

This might very well be one of those stories where you had to be there to find the humor but I’m laughing again now just thinking about it. Mike’s dilemma—great service yet too much of a one-time request—made me wonder about our own client service. How often do we serve clients too much of something they requested once? How often do we assume that they still want more of this service or that they still value it? 

Too often we make the same mistake as this young waiter: we assume what our client values or that what they once valued has not changed. Our challenge is to have more conversations and collaboration with our clients to truly understand what they need and value. Would you like more ice with your tea?