Serve Generosity with an Echo

Replacing a roof on a house with a large footprint can be very pricey.  But, after a roof eclipses twenty plus years or so, it is time to bite the bullet and get out the checkbook.  Al’s Roofing did a great job and we gladly paid his detailed itemized invoice.  We also had the house painted since it was also long overdue.

A few weeks later, we noticed a soffit (that’s a wood or medal sheet that covers the eave or overhang of a roof) had been knocked out-of-line by the painters, the wind or squirrels.  Repositioning it on a two-story house required an extra-long roofer’s ladder and bit of Cirque du Soleil acrobatics.  We called Al’s Roofing and he sent one of his roofers to correct the problem.

A few days later we got an invoice in the mail.  The bill outlined a detailed description of the operation.  The bottom of the invoice showed the total charge:  $ 0.00.

He could have told us on site there would be no charge for his soffit repositioning services.  He could have had his office manager send a text or email with that same message.  But, he mailed an invoice to dramatize his generosity.  It was more than an interpersonal gesture; it was a tangible one.  And, it solidified his commitment to being an abundant vendor.

The power of his generosity was echoed in the days that followed receipt of his bill. I showed it to neighbors over for a party.  I turned the invoice into a slide to use in customer service workshops to accompany this story.  And, now you are reading the same story.  Props do more than offer evidence; they enhance the theatre of show-and-tell stories.  They embellish a narrative in a way a mental picture might not.  They reflect a value laced in pride.

Make Generosity Inclusive

“Amy’s Plant” has a special meaning to a good friend of mine.  And, it always makes him smile whenever you ask him about it.  But, I am getting way ahead of myself!

My good friend tore down a shed in his side yard.  The ugly old shed was in stark contrast with the rest of his highly coiffured lawn.  He decided to turn the space into a flower garden complete with a lattice-covered sitting area.  When it came time to purchase plants and ornamental trees, he took along his six-year-old granddaughter, Amy.  The salesperson at the nursery treated Amy as a part of the decision-making process to the delight of my friend.  Amy got to be the salesperson’s helper and he even asked her opinion on some of the plants.

Amy was over at her granddaddy’s house the afternoon the plants and trees were delivered.  After all were placed in the spots where they would be planted, the driver had one more plant to unload.  It was a small, aromatic rosemary plant with a tag that read, “Amy’s plant.”  She was thrilled and got to personally choose the spot where it would be planted.  Now, every time she visits Paw Paw she races to the side yard to check on the growth of her plant.

Whenever someone visits my friend’s garden, or seeks his input on a good place to buy plants, or asks about any topic even remotely related to horticulture, that inquirer will get to hear the “Amy’s Plant” story.  Don’t wait for your customers to wear an “Ask Me About My Granddaughter” button.  Find ways to learn the target of their affinity and add it to your list as well.

Make Generosity Neighborly

I stopped by a roadside flea market in search of an antique typewriter.  “Your license plate is about to fall off,” the owner told me as I was getting out of my car.  I looked and saw the screw on the right side of the plate was about to come off.  Handing me a Phillips screwdriver from his pile of used tools, he said, “Tighten that bad boy back up again before you lose it!”  When I returned his screwdriver, he smiled and waved me away.  “Just keep it, neighbor, I got plenty of them!”  I thought to myself, “How long has it been since a merchant I had never seen before referred to me as neighbor.  I vowed to come back, even after I located my typewriter.

This is the season of generosity.  But, sometimes the bright tensile, familiar songs, holiday shopping, and party planning can drown out the spirit of emotional gift-giving.  Vow to make this time more gestures of generosity that are loud and proud.  Make them pronounced, not subtle; infectious, not just responsive.  Make them expressed for the sheer joy of giving and not to provoke reciprocity.  And, make them a spirit of serving that goes beyond a special holiday and practiced all year long!

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books.  His newest book is Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.  He can be reached at

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