By Burl Stamp

It was almost nine o’clock in the evening when I finally arrived at my hotel after a long day of meetings and travel. With a full-day workshop to lead early the next morning, I was ready to crash for the night. I was tired, but I was also hungry.

I asked the front-desk clerk as I checked in if there was a place nearby where I could still get a quick bite. She pointed across the lobby and said, “I think Joan over in the bar can still get you something to eat.”

The bar at the suburban hotel where I was staying was not exactly a hot spot on a Monday night.

There were only two other people at a small table talking when I walked in and pulled up a bar stool. Joan was busy cleaning up behind the bar and getting ready to close, but she cheerfully greeted me with a menu. Our small talk quickly brought her to the question, “So, what brings you to town?”

“I have a meeting tomorrow at St. Vincent’s,” I replied.

She immediately stopped what she was doing, looked at me with the appreciative smile a mother has when you ask about one of her children, and uttered three simple words.

“That’s my hospital.”

Her heartfelt expression of what St. Vincent’s meant to her family said it all. Sure, she went on to explain that “her babies” were born there and that they took wonderful care of her husband when he needed surgery. But the details weren’t necessary to convey the powerful connection she had developed with the hospital because of the very personal, respectful care she had received there. It was as if she was telling me about a member of her family, and she was so proud of who they were and what they had accomplished.

This kind of personal connection and loyalty should be the goal for all businesses. I personally experience it every day without even really thinking about it: Delta is my airline; Kaldi’s is my coffeehouse; Marriott/Starwood is my hotel.

In many ways, a customer describing our business as “theirs” is the ultimate compliment. We should consider that expression as one of the best measures of success in judging a customer’s long-term experiences with our organization.

Certainly, businesses must do many things right over many years to build the kind of trust and connection that Joan and her family felt with St. Vincent’s. But my guess is that at the heart of all those things is the sense among frontline staff that each person who walks through the door is “my customer” – an individual who deserves the same level of service and care that I would provide to my own mother, child or very dearest friend. That sense of dedication and accountability to each individual’s needs is what distinguishes the very best organizations.

Burl Stamp is the president/founder of Stamp & Chase. His firm helps organizations empower frontline managers to become more inspired leaders with tools that transform workplace culture and operating results. For more information, visit, or reach out via email to