There are rituals at universities, many of which take place at the beginning of each semester or holiday break. One popular tradition is to lament the quiet of those times when students aren’t on campus. On our most recent first day back after a break, a fellow staff member and I were participating in this tradition. I said something like, “I forgot how peaceful it is when the kids are gone.” He followed my altogether too-obvious quip with a story from his graduate school days along the same lines: he worked in the library where the head librarian was fond of asking, “Why don’t they just leave the books on the shelves where they belong?”

This got me to thinking. Do I wish my customers took their problems, complaints, and neediness someplace else? Am I happier when there are no lines, phone calls, or emails pleading for help? Have I become that fussy librarian? What about you? Do you love or tolerate your customers? How do you view the challenges and problems they bring? Do you secretly wish that they’d just park their silly cars and leave you alone?

Despite my off-hand remark to my colleague, I don’t think like the librarian. In fact, I’m a firm believer in garnering loyalty through challenging customer interactions. The moments our customers are needy, demanding, and want special attention put us in the perfect position to deliver. By solving their problems efficiently, creatively, and positively, we have gone a long way in earning their repeat business. Like the librarian, we can see our customers as the cause of all our problems or we can see them as the purpose for our existence and thrive on problem solving.