I was recently a motivational speaker for a large Bankers Conference. At the end of the speech, the CEO of a large midwestern bank chased me down to share his leadership philosophy.
Over the years, the CEO has evolved his customer service philosophy to do things FOR people not TO them.
According to the wise CEO, when you do things for people, you serve and help them. When you do things to people you punish or torture them.
Most banks routinely do things TO people. We fine our customers late charges, we charge them interest to borrow money, we assess them fees for holding accounts. These are often seen as actions done to customers.
In any business, it is so easy to get caught up in doing things to people while forgetting why you are in business in the first place. Ultimately, any organization (to survive) needs to be providing a service that supports and helps others.
For instance, couples taking out a mortgage are buying a home. As a financial provider, if you can help them make a major decision that will support their families' livelihood- you are truly helping them.
Doing things to people means your wielding rules at customers to force them to comply. When doing things for customers, you are using your knowledge, products and service to really help them.
In many cases, the nuance is subtle. For instance, the example the CEO gave me is.... if we charge a fee for late payment, we are doing this to someone. However, now we try to contact the customer to let them know they are in overdraft and discuss their options, we are doing this for them.
For the Midwestern bank, customers appreciate that they are flexible to their needs and supportive of their unique situation.