A friend of mine went to the airport rental car agency and had a chance to upgrade to a Tesla. He had never driven a Tesla so he was happy to pay the upcharge to have the experience. If you've ever rented a car at the airport, you typically are stopped at a gated exit where the car rental employee looks over the paperwork, checks your driver's license and sends you on your way. One of the questions they will typically ask is, "Would you like the fuel option?" That allows you the convenience of paying for a tank of gas so you don't have to worry about filling before returning the car.
At the gate, the attendant went through the typical routine and then asked the routine question, "Would you like the fuel option?"
My friend thought was funny and started laughing. A Tesla is an electric car. No fuel necessary to run this amazing four-wheeled piece of technology. The attendant wasn't sure what was funny, then he realized what he'd asked and was embarrassed.
A similar experience happened to me at McDonald's. I just love those fries! It was quite some time ago, but I'll never forget the day I ordered a chicken sandwich with fries. After I told the nice woman behind the counter what I wanted, she asked me, "Would you like fries with that?"
My response was, "Do you mean another order of fries, or did you mean to ask me if I'd like a hot apple pie with that chicken sandwich and fries?" I smiled at her. At first, she blushed with embarrassment and then laughed. And, by the way, I added the apple pie to my order, which I love almost as much as the fries.
And, that is what brings us to the point. Both the gate attendant at the rental car agency and my new friend at McDonalds were just going through the motions. This is easy to do when it's late in the day and fatigue is setting in. But, the best people stay alert and focused. They recognize that their customers are unique individuals and do their best to give them the unique experience they deserve.
One way to avoid the "just going through the motions" syndrome is to individualize each interaction you have with a customer. After you greet the customer come up with something specific to say to them. For example, a customer in a store might be wearing a baseball hat from their favorite team. Break the ice by making a comment about the team. Or, perhaps you're talking with someone on the phone. Ask her where she is calling from. The goal is to break the monotony of the routine. That creates a unique conversation with each customer, allowing you to stay away from routine and monotony.
Every interaction you have counts. Never make a customer feel as if they are anything less than special and unique.