Anyone who does anything in hopes of improving their community or tries to help keep its citizens informed cannot help but "put some folks out" as the old timers used to say about offending or displeasing others. I have been privileged to write this column for six years (how time flies when you're having fun!) come next month. It has been many things - an opportunity for which I shall always be grateful, an unprecedented learning experience, satisfying, frustrating and at times so maddening I want to quit. (Some would agree with the latter and say, "Do it.") At times I've been, as have all others who have the privilege to express personal opinions or make suggestions in a public media, criticized because one simply disagrees with what's been said or things said were taken out of context, misunderstood or for what ever reason the reader deems it his right to disagree. That's fine; it's part of our guarantee by the Bill of Rights. Without criticism and discussion this would be a very boring world.
I have recently received criticism for writing too much about Elkins and the immediate vicinity and not more about things in the wider reaches of our county and the neighboring counties in which this paper has readers. Let me say that I welcome criticism as long it doesn't become threatening. It shows that at least a few read the column. In answer to that challenge, though, there is always a lot going on in our community. I have the opportunity to travel to many communities across our state in my other job. In doing so I've had many people ask me, "How do you all find so many things to do in Elkins? That town has always got something going on" or "That's got to be the busiest little town in West Virginia." So you see there is a lot to write about. Covering and writing about what I hope to be of interest to my readers in Elkins alone takes the major portion of each week's allotted space.
As space should permit, however, I would like to write more about what's going on in our sister communities and you can help. If you or someone you know knows of something they believe would be of interest to our coverage area, please let me know. I might not be able to write more than a couple paragraphs about it but I'll do all I can to help get your word out to our readers. If you suggestion is a planned event, please let me know at least three weeks in advance.
I want to pass along the following parable in hopes that some of those who serve the public - especially those that create the first impression of our community in those who are visitors to our town - might be helped to understand how better service will improve their business and make visitors to want to return.
No one can make you serve customers well, that's because great service is a choice. Harvey MacKay tells a wonderful story about a cab driver that proved this point.
He was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing Harvey noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie and freshly pressed black slacks the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for Harvey.
He handed his customer a laminated card and said, "I'm Wally, your driver. While I'm loading your bags in the trunk I'd like you to read my mission statement."
Taken aback, Harvey read the card. "Wally's Mission Statement: To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment."
This blew Harvey away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside - spotlessly clean.
As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, "Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf." Harvey said jokingly, "No, I'd prefer a soft drink." Wally smiled and said, "No problem. I have a cooler up here with regular and Diet Coke, water and orange juice." Almost stuttering, Harvey said, "I'll take a Diet Coke."
Handing him his drink, Wally said, "If you'd like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and USA Today."
As they were pulling away, Wally handed Harvey another laminated card. "If you'd like to listen to the radio, these are the stations I get and the music they play."
As if that weren't enough, Wally told Harvey that he had the air conditioning on and asked if the temperature was comfortable for him. Then he advised Harvey of the best route to his destination for that time of day. He also let him know that he'd be happy to chat and tell him about some of the sights, or, if Harvey preferred, leave him with his own thoughts.
"Tell me, Wally," Harvey asked his driver, "have you always served customers like this?"
Wally smiled into the rear view mirror. "No, not always," he said. "In fact it's only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies. Then I heard the personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day.
"He had just written a book called 'You'll See It When You Believe It.' "Dyer said that if you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day you'll rarely disappoint yourself. He said, 'Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don't be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.'
"That hit me right between the eyes," said Wally. "Dyer was really talking about me. I was always quacking and complaining so I decided to change my attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their drivers. The cabs were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly and the customers were unhappy. So I decided to make some changes. I put in a few at a time. When my customers responded well, I did more."
"I take it that has paid off for you," Harvey said.
"It sure has," Wally replied. "My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year I'll probably quadruple it. You were lucky to get me today. I don't sit at cabstands anymore. My customers call me for appointments on my cell phone or leave a message on my answering machine. If I can't pick them up myself, I get a reliable cabbie friend to do it and I take a piece of the action."
Wally was phenomenal. He was running a limo service out of a Yellow Cab.
Harvey concluded the story saying, "I've probably told that story to more than fifty cab drivers over the years, and only two took the idea and ran with it. Whenever I go to their cities, I give them a call. The rest of the drivers quacked like ducks and told me all the reasons they couldn't do any of what I was suggesting."
Wally the Cab Driver made a different choice. He decided to stop quacking like ducks and start soaring like eagles.
How about us?
Smile and the whole world smiles with you.
The ball is in our hands.
Have a nice day, unless you already have other plans.