Community foundations thrive on civility, customer service and common ground

I accompanied both a friend and a family member to several medical appointments last week. As an observer, I got a small glimpse into our healthcare system and a large glimpse into customer service.

I spent several hours in waiting and patient rooms watching and reflecting on customer service. At one visit, a receptionist had a printed sign by her computer that said, “Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

My initial reaction was appreciation for such a great thought. I loved the focus on the patient and the reflection of the importance of customer service.

I realized the sign was aimed at the customer not the employee and have been thinking about it ever since.

Who has the responsibility for a positive interaction? Who is responsible for customer service? And who exactly are we serving?

To be clear, I think the sign is a good one. Really, it’s one that all of us should follow.

But that is just basic civility. Treating others respectfully, being kind and not making quick assumptions about others are all attributes we each should follow in all interactions. That’s just being a good human.

Customer service is something else altogether.

How we ensure we are proactive, timely, knowledgeable, listen fully, can work across differences, receive feedback and respond appropriately and respectfully is just the start of what makes up strong customer service.

In today’s world with increasing incivility that we all see daily in the media, online, and even in our own families and communities, it may feel like customer service or basic civility is a relic of the past. But community foundations have an opportunity to be a haven where people can work together to strengthen the whole community.

That is what community foundations are all about. We exist to bring people together who might otherwise never be in community with one another to work to strengthen a community, region or, in our case, entire state.

Philanthropy is one of the rare spaces left where we can both be civil and kind, provide excellent customer service and all work together toward a common goal.

My hope is that we all continue coming together with our neighbors to combine our time, talent and treasure to ensure our state thrives.