Do You Have Oatmeal?
“Yes, yes. Come in. Come in.”
That’s how it all began.
This is a story about breakfast cereal, making friends in another country … and a beautiful customer-service mindset.
We were in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico over the holidays, 40 miles or so south of Cancun, soaking up some sun and looking at condos in the area. We may have found a gem in a nearby community … Puerto Aventuras.
I have a lot of food allergies. I can’t eat wheat or GMO corn, and eggs give me a headache. That knocks out a lot of breakfast options. And while I eat very few grains, I can eat oatmeal.
The waiter’s English was pretty good … far better than my Spanish, which is close to non-existent if you don’t count hola, queso, and agua caliente.
It turns out after we sat down that, no, in fact they didn’t have oatmeal. He’d misunderstood. Fine, I’d have a fruit bowl with yogurt and some bacon.
They were very friendly. The food was good. The place was convenient. So, we went back the next day.
Our same waiter is there.
“I got you oatmeal.”
I was quite surprised and said something like, “That’s so nice, but you didn’t have to do that.”
His response was frame-able.
“But that’s my job … to make you happy.”
I asked if he were the owner? No. He’s a waiter … and he bought oatmeal in case we came back!
Please stop for a moment and absorb how unusual and laudable that seemingly small act truly was.
And now, just imagine if you – and everyone who works for you – adopted that mindset. How successful would your business be? How happy would your clients, customers, and patients be?
That’s my job … to make you happy. Wow. The world could sure use more of that mentality.
So … we say great, we’ll have the oatmeal … avena in Spanish.
But when it comes out, there’s a little problem.
It’s raw, uncooked oats in a nice glass bowl with milk on it.
We didn’t want to seem unappreciative or rude, so we ate some. Yum. And when he came to the table to see how it was, we asked him if he could cook it in the microwave for a while.
He’s very agreeable and comes back a couple minutes later with the steel cut oatmeal still pretty much raw but with the milk on top now hot.
We ate it. And we couldn’t help smiling. It was pretty funny.
But now, we have a dilemma. We’ve gotten to know this guy. He’s become our pal … Ignacio. Sweet man, and we wouldn’t want to make him feel bad.
Do we avoid him for the rest of the trip, because we don’t want to eat raw oatmeal, or do we risk embarrassing him by telling him it needs to be cooked?
I can’t avoid him. That feels awful. I felt we owed it to him … and future customers who might order oatmeal … to tell him. So, I got a picture of raw oats alongside cooked oatmeal in a bowl on my cell phone and explained it needed to be cooked in a pot for quite a while.
He was more than open to the instructions. And they cooked up a pretty good bowl.
Telling him was the right thing to do.
As a coach or an employer or a friend, there are a lot of times when you have to give feedback to people that isn’t easy to say … or hear.
Would I be doing them a service if I didn’t tell them … if I avoided the issue? No. Not only would it not serve them, I’d be out of integrity.
You have to be honest and forthright with people. Respectful, gentle, and loving … but forthright.
We all need people to give us feedback, even if it might sting a little. That’s just what a real coach, mentor, or a real pal does. And a strong person receives it with grace.
Thanks Ignacio for showing us how customer service is done … and for being so gracious.
I’ll always remember you and what you taught me. It’s my job to make you happy!
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