My wife, Janet, and I were honored recently to be able to spend a short time in the country of India. While there, we were deeply moved by the gracious hospitality of the people we encountered. Three different hosts explained to us a Sanskrit verse, which is “Atithi Devo Bhava.” Atithi Devo Bhava is taken from an ancient Hindu scripture and it means, “the guest is equivalent to God.” I wonder how we, in western cultures, might treat each other, including our customers, differently if we adopted a similar philosophy.

Treating Customers with Civility, Warmth, and Compassion

This is not a religious discussion, it’s a discussion about civility, warmth, and compassion. Whether you’re a religious person or not, consider how you would treat someone differently if you believed they were God. How would we treat confused end users or customers if we regarded them as God?

Giving Customers a Greater Sense of Welcome

The Indian government even promotes tourism through a social awareness campaign called Atithi Devo Bhavah to encourage all Indians to give tourists a greater sense of welcome. What can we, in Information Systems and Technology, do to give our end users and our colleagues…our customers a greater sense of welcome? Can we lose any arrogance, judgementalism, and condescension in dealing with our brothers and sisters in the workplace? Can we remember how we sometimes feel a sense of helplessness or confusion when dealing with unfamiliar surroundings, procedures, cultures, and even technology? I sometimes wondered if any of my Indian hosts marveled at my cluelessness in their culture, yet never once did they show it to me. They treated me, frankly, like a God. I realized that’s something to strive for in our relationships with our customers, our fellow humans.

Being Gracious with Our Customers

Atithi Devo Bhava, the guest is equivalent to God, is really about civility and graciousness among people. It says nothing about agreeing with each other or even liking each other. Atithi Devo Bhava is about making the conscious choice to treat other people with grace, warmth, compassion, and generosity. It provides a roadway to building relationships and, when all is said and done, relationships are what matter the most.


2 thoughts on “Treating Guests (and Customers) Like God”

  1. brenda alford

    What a wonderful world it would be if every citizen in all countries would ascribe to this philosophy whether in one’s home or on the street. We all need to practice respect, civility, and graciousness to each other.

    1. Brenda, thanks for your comment. It starts with us as individuals. Acts of kindness and respect go a long way toward defusing powder keg situations. It’s not necessary to agree with another person in order to treat her or him with dignity and respect.

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