The Good Samaritan is a story of kindness widely known across all faiths, not just those anchored to the New Testament. But, in many ways the back story is particularly instructive to delivering innovative service.

The story starts with the words: “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” That route was seventeen miles long descending steeply over two thousand feet and very difficult, rocky terrain.

The parable continues: “…and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” The Jerusalem-Jericho route was at that time populated by thieves. Both a lawyer and priest traveling the same way saw the injured man but moved to the other side of the road and ignored him. But, a Samaritan passed by, had compassion on the man, bandaged his wounds, took him to a nearby inn and paid for his care.

The centerpiece of the story is the fact that the injured man, assumed to be a Jew, was helped by a Samaritan. Samaritans were deeply hated by the Jews and often called them “half breeds” and “heathen dogs.” Some theologians believe the Samaritan had just traveled up the steep long hill and was likely exhausted. But, all agree the story powerfully answers the question put to Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?”

So, what’s the point? Your “neighbor” is that customer who always complains. It is the one who is perpetually impatient, regardless of how quickly you work to respond. Your neighbor is that customer who returns merchandise after heavy use and demands a full refund. Your neighbor is the customer who demands to “see the manager” rather than deal with any front line person no matter that person’s competence or attitude. Even after your exhausting trip through a trying day, your customer is still your neighbor and deserves your very best.

Customers are not always right…we are all customers and we know we are sometimes wrong. But, the customer is always the customer—your neighbor—and, like the injured man in the parable deserves your compassion and commitment in making them feel right.