What has grace got to do with good service delivery?

Nearly five years ago Lorraine and I travelled to England to give support to our younger daughter and her husband as they welcomed their first child into the world. Knowing about our trip, a German friend kindly gave us some British currency that she had left over from a previous trip. On presenting one of her £20 notes at a retail outlet I was advised by the shop assistant that this was an old note no longer in circulation and that I would need to go to a bank to exchange it.

One day I scoured London for the perfect dummy to pacify my new granddaughter. During this vitally important mission I found myself outside a bank and decided to pop in to exchange the note. I was number four in a queue of eight people. There were two customer service people at the counter but one had obviously decided to finish for the day and was counting her money.

The other who was still on duty looked very unhappy and seemed determined to be as unhelpful to the remaining customers as she possibly could. No smiles. No grace. As a result, the whole atmosphere in the room was heavy and unpleasant. Her rude tone with the customers before me was astonishing. Then it was my turn. I explained that I was visiting from New Zealand and wanted to exchange a recently phased out £20 note for a new one. She said that I would need to open a bank account before she could do anything to assist me and that if I applied today it would take weeks to approve. My appeals to reason and common sense were wasted. It was clear that she simply wanted to get rid of me. She succeeded!

I left the bank stunned by her pettiness and unburdened my frustration on my family.

A week later I found myself outside another bank and thought I’d try again. What a contrast! The bank employees here were smiling. The mood was light and positive. There was a long queue but customers were served quickly and professionally. I was greeted by a friendly face and my simple transaction was processed by a woman with grace and quiet efficiency. Nothing was too much trouble and I left feeling both grateful and honoured.

Grace is a marvellous quality and has everything to do with good service delivery. It does away with constraining rules and regulations. It lightens the atmosphere. It makes people feel blessed. Grace is not always the gift I choose to give to others in every situation. But when I do, everything changes.

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