Customer Service Is Life

Photo Credit: Leo Grübler via CC License

Photo Credit: Leo Grübler via CC License

This post is a modified version of an article I shared in the FCR company newsletter a few months ago.  It’s also a retelling of my very first post on Communicate Better Blog. Comparing the two articles, I’m amazed at how my thinking has evolved since my great epiphany about customer service more than three years ago. Click here to read the original post published on the FCR blog on December 4, 2015

The Backstory

I was on a layover in Salt Lake City, returning home from a business trip.  Hungry, I found an eatery that looked appealing. I filed through the line and placed my order with a rather indifferent employee, we’ll call her Ms. Indifference. I then walked to the cash register and placed my order again.

As I waited for my food, I watched another traveler make her way through the line. She told Ms. Indifference that she wanted a pastry and a coffee. Ms. Indifference told her she could retrieve a pastry herself from the case in front of her. The traveler made her way up to the register and reiterated her desire for a coffee. It’s at this point that the bomb was activated.

The cashier indicated that they didn’t have coffee. In fact, they didn’t even have a coffee maker!  The traveler stood there dumbfounded for a moment and then, leaving her pastry on the counter, walked out of the restaurant.

The A-ha Moment

As I watched the events unfold, so many questions flooded my mind. Why didn’t Ms. Indifference tell the woman they didn’t have coffee? Why didn’t the guy behind the cash register offer the customer an alternative? Couldn’t they have walked next door to Starbucks and purchased a coffee for this customer?

After more than a decade of working in customer service and more than three decades as a human being, a light finally came on. The keys to delivering great customer service had been right under my nose the whole time.

Broadening Our Definition

Let’s take a moment to broaden our definition of customer service to people helping people.  When you think of customer service in these terms, every human interaction, every relationship becomes an opportunity for great customer service. Where I once confined customer service to helping the person on the other end of the phone line, all of my relationships both inside and outside of work came into play.

The Result

After my a-ha moment, I began to view customer service as a career and a craft to be proud of, rather than just a job while I “figured my life out.” I became really aware of whether I was receiving good or bad service. I began writing about what I was observing and reading what others were saying about my profession. This led to a realization that I could choose to deliver the kind of customer service to my customers that I would want to receive.

I could also treat my colleagues and my family the way I would treat my best customers. You know, little things like showing genuine concern for their issues, actively listening, seeking to understand before being understood, assuming the best in others, etc. I could go on and on.  The point is that once I became aware of what great customer service looked like and the service I wanted to receive, I became immediately accountable to deliver that to those around me (think Neo and the red pill).

My Invitation To Customer Service Professionals

If you are reading this and you work in a customer service job, you are a customer service professional. You aren’t just good at talking on the phone or typing emails and chat responses. You are an expert at connecting with other human beings and solving their problems. Won’t you join me in becoming students of our craft and aiming to serve ALL of the customers around us better? If Ms. Indifference taught me anything, it taught me that there’s an opportunity to deliver better customer service and our customers are desperate for it. Customer service isn’t just a job – it’s a way of life.

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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