Fine Line

To serve the customer is to deliver what the customer has ordered. No more, no less. Quickly. Precisely. Fulfilling the order. Full. Filled. Unless asked, a waiter does not discuss with the customers the wisdom of their choice from the menu.

To consult the customer is to enter into the decision making process, to co-discuss, to co-think. To discuss with, think with. Perhaps initially just as a sounding board. Then later as a provider of information, input, advice. At the highest level, acting independently, but in the spirit of the customer’s wishes.

Stages. From order-taker all the way to co-thinker and co-decider. Grades. Gradations. Graduation. Gradual. From serving to partnering with. And there is a fine line between each phase, at each transition.

If the lines are identified, understood and managed (walked carefully), the collaborator is graduated, “makes the grade.” If misidentified, misunderstood, therefore mismanaged, the collaborator is not graduated. The business relationship might be terminated.