Understanding the fine line of privacy

Having friendly, helpful customer service can be one of the things that separates good organizations from great organizations. There is a local restaurant that has wonderful employees and customer service. I frequent this restaurant enough that when I went to meet a friend there for lunch the other day, as we were being seated by the hostess, the server was already bringing Diet Pespi to the table because he knew that is what we drink. It’s a small thing and if we had decided we didn’t want those drinks, it wouldn’t have been a problem. This is a restaurant where the servers know what many of their customers tend to order, the bar tenders know what drinks most of the customers want and it’s very rare to ever wait for something as the servers tend to anticipate peoples needs whenever possible. Most people leave this restaurant knowing that the employees truly care about the customers (and that the food is excellent).

However, there is a risk in having such personal service. The thing that makes their service so special could also create an uncomfortable situation. The same day I went there to meet a friend for lunch, some other friends were coming through town and suggested I meet them at this same restaurant for dinner. As soon as we were seated, the server (a different server from the afternoon but one who had been there earlier and seen me there) made a comment about me returning after only having been there a few hours earlier. This was a completely innocent comment made simply as a conversation piece but potentially it could cause problems. As an example, what if the person I had been there with earlier was being interviewed to be hired to replace the people I was with later on? What if the person I was having lunch with was a girlfriend and the person in the evening was my wife? There are many possibilities that could have proven to be uncomfortable (in my case, it wasn’t a problem at all but the point is it could have been).

Other examples would be at the front desk of a hotel. If the front desk clerk welcomes the customer and indicates it’s nice to see this person again there is always the possibility that this customer is with someone who doesn’t know they have ever been to the hotel before.

Or, a Realtor might casually mention the name of another person interested in a house. This person might not want others to know he is looking to buy (for any number of reasons).

There is a very fine line between being providing friendly, effective customer service and overstepping ones right to privacy. This is something an organization needs to discuss on a regular basis to make sure people aren’t crossing the line

Have a great day!


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