I’ve been in a customer-facing role for the vast majority of my career. It has certainly had its challenges and frustrations, but I would say that overall, the role suits me since I do enjoy (most) people, and I love hearing people’s personal stories. The more you work with people, whether they are internal or external / customers, the more they are willing to open up to you about their own personal stories and what actually makes them unique. I think everyone has interesting stories to share if they are given the opportunity to share them. But you’ll never get to this point unless you build a relationship and ask. Once the relationship is built, you have permission to ask and actually get a thoughtful, real response.
Today, I met a customer I’ve been working with for the last 3.5 years for the very first time in person. He happened to be in town for a quick 36-hour trip and suggested we have lunch together, so I picked a fun lunch spot near his hotel in Times Square. I originally blocked two hours for lunch, knowing he’s a talker, but the lunch actually went over three hours long until I told him I had another meeting to run home to. He’s an interesting guy who clearly loves the people in his life. Last year, he had shared that his best friend, who lives in California, was having a medical procedure done and would need help around the house and with her teenage child. So he drove his car all the way from Virginia to be with her for a couple months and help out. I’d never heard of someone being so selfless.
This time, he shared the story of his three (now grown) children. The first was adopted. He and his then-wife struggled for five years to conceive despite all their fertility tests coming out normal. So they proceeded to adopt, and shortly after adopting, became pregnant (it seems like once you stop trying, getting pregnant seems to suddenly work in so many cases!). They ended up having one adopted child and two biological children. The first two, he almost fully paid for their college tuitions since they qualified for no financial aid. The third got a full ride at her first choice college, and so because he “saved” money by not paying for four years of her undergraduate tuition, he said he would buy her a brand new car, which he did. I was really touched when I heard this story; he wanted to treat all his kids equally, but in the end, because he didn’t have to pay for the third child’s schooling, he decided to “make it up” to her with new wheels.
“I love all my kids equally,” he insisted to me. I believe what he says. “I just want them to know that I love them, and I want them to enjoy life and get the opportunities I never had. And if I can afford it, then why the hell not buy a damn car for her?”
I always hear stories like this and am amazed by people’s hearts and generosity. And well, frankly, I know that if I had been lucky enough to get a full scholarship anywhere, my parents would NEVER have bought me a brand new car!