“mama” or “anna” – lots to learn from this man!

As we were discussing some concepts in class about customer relationship and employee engagement – the discussions were about are we doing enough for employees or are we creating enough value for the customer, something struck me really hard! There is this person in the college that I teach whose name I do not know (doubt if many know it!) – that sounds surprising isn’t it? He is called “mama”! Everyone calls him “mama” and he more like the person who in Chennai is called “anna” – a generic way to address someone who is elder to us. This man is fairly into his latter half of life, slow, sober, does odd tasks at the institute like serving tea, lunch, water etc There is not much that we can take-away from all this but what struck me the most are these:

  • Punctual: This man was always on time much before anyone else came in and more importantly “at work”; this is a laudable point since there is no one watching if he is doing something or not and most of his chores are odd jobs
  • Pleasant: He is definitely not the most handsome or smart. But his smile makes him always approachable. During the 6 days I watched him, he served me, a wounded student who was finding it difficult to walk, other faculty without any remorse (not even an iota of doubt). He was always ready to help and do work – sounds banal? NO its not banal at all – considering how a customer gets treated at service centers today
  • Expresses concern: He ensures he folds his hands and invites people who visit the place at least all faculty and guests. He inquires if you need water or coffee / tea, and brings it to you every time you request it without showing a face. At least whenever I passed by I found him busy and with one person always asking him for the next service.
  • Says Thank you: He says “thank you” in truly regional fashion every time he serves or takes a request – sometimes you wonder why is he saying thanks when in fact we should be thanking him!
  • Commitment & Hard work: He is never tired or at least never lets anyone notice it. The Admin manager told me he leaves only when he is told to in the evening and it doesn’t seem to matter to him that he is working more than the other younger counterparts (other mamas’ in the making) – I have my own doubts if they ever will become one who is so fondly called!
  • Delights: Today he brought me “upma” for b’fast. No, this is not the delight point. Most of the days due to lack of facility at my guest house I come into the institute and request for a quick bite before class. Most the days it is “mama” who is around (I also come in early) and gets me my morning fuel before class. A couple of days back I had asked him for “upma” and on his return he told me that it was unavailable. I told him its ok! And today morning he delighted me by bringing “upma” as soon as I came into the institute and even before asking him to buy me some b’fast. He told me lovingly that I had asked the other day and he could not get it so he decided to get it on the way from a hotel near the station that serves it. He also told me that without b’fast it would be a difficult start to the day.

I truly hope all other “mamas’ to be” will take him as a role model and walk his footsteps. It may help them settle and create a better lifestyle for their next generation.

We have a lot to take away from him. Why are we looking all over the place for how to practice customer relationship, customer delight and work ethics? It is right here in front of us. Let’s acknowledge, appreciate and learn by being more aware of all such every day examples around us.


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