Every work experience, employment opportunity and entrepreneurial endeavor I can remember has one common element: Regardless of the products or services I was delivering, representing or offering, the connective thread to success and advancement was customer service.

While my professional business growth and development back story is as diverse as each of the dozen or so jobs I have done or the companies and organizations I have worked for, customer service has clearly allowed me to advance.

In a previous Business Beats, I told the story and lessons learned from my first job as a paperboy. That job served as the foundation for building my customer service skill set.

Subsequently, I bused tables, worked in several retail establishments, mowed lawns, worked in food and automotive supply, shipping, nonprofits, cable television, utility and telecommunications, and even owned my own business. In the near future I’ll offer examples of how customer service and being recognized for providing quality customer service led me forward. For now let’s cover a few basics.

How we view customer service is as important as the performance of customer service.

Customer service is the act and interaction with the customer, correct? If we remove the word customer or better yet expand the meaning of customer to include stakeholder, supervisor, co-worker, colleague or sometimes even competitor, the way we perform “customer service” or view daily interactions changes drastically.

Expand the definition of who you are serving and you expand the potential for career advancement.

Potential upward or outward movement in developing a successful career is not something workers consider on a regular basis, but we should think about it every day.

There are many ways to excel in the areas of customer service. Some experts will say always do a little extra for each customer or put forth the effort to make people feel comfortable. Treating people like you want to be treated is another approach.

Some companies will actually provide you with a script that is supposed to ensure that your customer service style meets the expectations of the company.

While each of these approaches has merit and may be a good base from which to start, the people with the ability to connect with clients, customers and co-workers are those who engage the individuals they are working with and working for. They listen to discover the needs or wants of those interested in the product or service they are selling and provide it in a way that makes the client or customer feel comfortable.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. Many of us have worked at places where despite the owner’s best attempts at creating a positive customer service culture, other employees sometimes set the tone in the work environment.

“Slow down, Mustang Sally” or “Ease off the pedal, Speed Racer” may not be said directly to an enthusiastic employee, but if you are giving or attempting to give 100 percent every day and everyone else is hovering around 75 percent, it won’t take long for somebody to send you a message.

If you find yourself in a situation like that, the best thing is to realize that your current location is not your final destination. Find your motivation to move forward and use that to help power through the difficult situations and challenging days.

Advancement and reaching your next career step or opportunity should be your priority. Your future is your future and the difference between quality customer service and mediocre customer service is noticeable.

What can we do as those receiving the quality service to encourage a better level of customer service across the board?

The answer to this question is simple: Acknowledge great customer service when you experience it.

Whether you are a customer or the superior of an employee when experiencing, witnessing or hearing about a solid example of wonderful customer service, do your best to make a comment or statement. Comment about the service you received out loud and preferably within earshot of the person that performed the quality service or better yet to the person’s boss or company owner as well.

Wherever you find yourself working today, it may not be where you want to be working or what you want to be doing forever.

If you are currently where you want to be, then excel in the role. If not, a possible career catalyst to move you forward is well within your reach and skill set.

Focus on providing the highest level of service to those you serve and those around you, and advancement opportunities will find you.

Joe Molineaux, director of the Small Business Development Center at Richard Stockton College, can be reached at MxBusinessBeats@gmail.com.

More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.