ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Smile When It Hurts

12.15.14 by Brad Thurman
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I recently had the great opportunity to serve as national president of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), an organization dedicated to marketing and business development in the AEC industry. My role with SMPS took me to cities across the United States and Canada. Add in travel to our other offices and conferences and I’m pretty sure I’ve traveled more in the last two years of my life than I have in the 51 years that preceded them. So I’ve developed a pretty thick skin concerning travel nightmares and I try not to get too angry about things I know people can’t control, which works…most of the time.

One of our board meetings was held in Baltimore. It was a three-day meeting, starting early in the mornings and lasting into the evenings. By the time we wrapped up Saturday afternoon, we were all exhausted and ready to be home.

I could go on about the flight issues I had that Saturday evening but suffice it to say I hadn’t bargained for a flight plan that looked like Baltimore-to-Dallas-to-Tulsa(almost)-to-Dallas-to-Tulsa(almost again)-to-Dallas. That’s how I ended up in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt DFW at 2 a.m. in need of a room. And that’s what this story is really all about.

The front desk agent, Lakeidea, was smiling and friendly, but not too much so, as is appropriate at that hour. She was quick and efficient, taking my information, offering a bottle of water (after five hours on a plane…yes, please!), giving a quick rundown of the hotel amenities and thanking me for staying with them. Her smile never stopped the whole time. After a long evening of travel snafus, her pleasant manner and attention to customer service was a wonderful way to end the long day.

We all preach customer service and we all believe ours is second-to-none. But it struck me again that morning how much it means to our clients. It didn’t take any more effort to be pleasant and helpful than it would have to have been surly or slow. But choosing the former made all the difference in the customer experience.

The good feeling produced by great client service is infectious – to those who practice it and to those who are served. That’s the beauty of it. Do a great job with a smile on your face and before long it becomes second nature.

We all have bad days and get bogged down. We all have clients, internal and external, that, smile as we might, are hard to deal with. It happens. Still, client service is a mindset and a culture, not a guideline to be applied unevenly. Smile when it hurts and the smiles during good times will feel even better.

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Brad Thurman, PE, FSMPS, CPSM


As Chief Marketing Officer, Brad directs marketing and business development for Wallace. He received his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies and Master of Architectural…

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