Got Patience? You'll Get Better Service if You Do

by Diane Berenbaum
He that can have patience can have what he will.
Ben Franklin

With time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.
Chinese Proverb

Think of all the times in your life when you've been told to wait -- wait your turn, wait in line, wait on hold, wait for an answer to your question or request. Despite the hold music and often pleasant people we meet while waiting, we are in a society of instant gratification where it seems unreasonable to have to wait (and unheard of to be expected to wait patiently).

With far less leisure time than we had years ago, every precious minute counts. As a result, we get impatient and end up taking out our frustrations on the messenger. I must admit that even I have been known to get a bit anxious and irritable.

However, I have been reminded by those around me that being patient can really pay off.

Making the Most of a Difficult Situation
My husband has always been far more patient than me. His experience with an airline reminded me that a little patience can yield much better results.

After an adventure-filled ski trip to Colorado with my son and two friends, my husband arrived at the airport only to learn that their return flight had been cancelled due to weather conditions. On top of that, there were no other flights headed home that night. The crowd of passengers at the airline counter was unruly; people were clearly upset as they shouted their concerns (and other unmentionables) to the ticket agent and anyone else who happened to walk by.

My husband, on the other hand, waited patiently for his turn. When he got to the front of the line, he smiled empathically and said that he understood the situation and politely requested seats on the first available flight. The agent's expression changed instantly from that of exasperation to relief. She quickly booked four seats on the early AM flight and expressed sincere appreciation for his patience and understanding. Smiling, she handed him the boarding passes and something extra – four $200 coupons that could be applied to flights anywhere in the U.S. – just for being patient.

Patience and Resisting Temptation
One of my associates at Communico, Anne Koproski, shared a recent experience that served to solidify my lesson on patience.

Anne stopped at Staples early in the morning to get a newspaper article laminated. There were only a few customers in the store, one of which happened to be in front of her in line. This customer was mailing a few packages and refused to cooperate with the Staples associate. The customer was barking curt responses to the associate's questions and would sigh heavily as the associate attempted to complete the task with little assistance.

Anxious to get to work on time, Anne quickly realized that she was behind the “wrong” person. Her first impulse was to share some less than complimentary comments with the resistant customer. Instead, she paused briefly and recognized that any comment probably would not help the situation. Then, she smiled at the Staples associate and showed, through her expression, that she understood what he was going through. When he had finished with the curt customer, he apologized for the delay and immediately laminated her article. As he handed her the finished product, he announced that it was free of charge – just because she was patient.

Patience is a Choice
Too often, as customers, we get caught up in the waiting game and become actively resistant, losing sight of the impression we are making and the impact of our resistance on the situation.

Patience doesn't always come naturally to us in times of frustration. But, it is a choice that, as shown above, can pay off. Not only will you get different results, such as a friendlier reaction, quicker resolution, and perhaps even something extra (or better yet, “free”), you will feel better too. It is also the healthy choice as you will experience less angst and less stress.

So, the next time you find yourself in a precarious waiting situation, pause for a moment and think about your choices before letting your instincts take over. You will be thankful you did and maybe even surprised at the results.

In the words of Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton, a British politician, poet, and novelist:

  • “Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active.  It is concentrated strength.”

P.S.  If you have any patience success stories, I would love to hear them!  Just email me at
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
Before and After
Before and After
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