What is giving good service? Is it being treated with respect? Absolutely. We all love that feeling when we enter a five-star hotel. You walk through the door and you feel like the most important person in the world — even if you're not staying there. You might just be passing through, but the doorman treats you as if you were staying in the presidential suite. Doesn't that just feel great?

Why are we giving good service? Because it's nice? Come on, let's get real. We give good service because it helps to differentiate us from our competition. It helps customers walk in our front door and yes, hopefully, they will be wowed enough to buy something. We do it to make the register ring. Personally, I liked it better when we didn't have to be so nice and they just came in to buy. Those were great years, but they are over. The last markets without heavy competition have long been exploited. Giving good service is now the new standard, but what is good service anyway? Have we gone to such an extreme that if you try to sell someone something, it represents bad service? The problem is selling is often associated with being too pushy. If it is done improperly, it is. Done right, customers love and appreciate it.

Strange as it may seem, as I was typing that last paragraph on my laptop at 30,000 feet above the earth on an east-bound Delta Airlines flight from Salt Lake City, I noticed my battery was running down. I smiled to myself and thought how apropos — the salesman at CompUSA where I bought my computer suggested that I buy an extra battery just for times like these. He said I'd thank him later. Well, I guess thanks are in order. Was he selling or was he servicing me?

I have done employee and dealer training for Shell Oil and Texaco. When I first got the job, I worked in a Shell station in Warwick, RI to get a feel for working behind the counter of a Shell service station. I worked with an employee named Ralph, who taught me more than I could have ever taught him. A customer would come in to the convenience store section of the station and before that customer left, Ralph would say, “Don't forget the Power Ball drawing is 42 million dollars tonight.” The customer would always reply, “Hey, thanks Ralph!” This went on and on. Every customer got the news about Powerball, almost every customer bought a ticket, and most bought multiple tickets.

Over an hour and a half had passed, and I asked Ralph how many tickets he had sold since I got there. He checked his computer and did some guesstimating and told me that he had sold approximately 400 tickets. I said, “WOW, you are quite the salesman!” When I said that, his face turned red and he replied with disgust in his voice, “I didn't SELL anything, I just take good care of my customers.” Yes, Ralph takes care of his customers, but he was also selling.

The point is simple. Selling is servicing and servicing is selling. They are interchangeable but more than that they set a new standard for selling and servicing. But why should we confuse the whole concept. Selling as a function does not have a good reputation. Most of us think of the sleazy used car salesman and none of us want to be associated with anyone like that. The first selling we must do is to explain the differences to our employees. Maybe even tell them about Ralph. Maybe we should never tell them we are ever selling. Maybe it should just be called servicing. Call it whatever you like. All I know is that it works to make customers happy and the register ring.

Rick Segel, CSP, is an author and speaker. He blends business topics from sales and marketing to customer service with a side order of humor. Rick is an internationally recognized speaker and is the author of “Retail Business Kit for Dummies” and “Laugh & Get Rich” and has appeared on more than 100 radio and TV shows. He can be reached at rick@ricksegel.com.