Rethinking Pain

Here’s Chuy resting after a long run. I didn’t stay mad at him for very long.

I’ve written about my falls while running in the past. It’s no secret that I’m a bit accident prone, and I have a fresh, new example to prove it. 

I’ve been running with my dog, Chuy off and on for about a year, and thanks to a headlamp and a good dose of caution, haven’t yet fallen. That was until Tuesday when I really ate it. Try to picture this in your head. I was running with Chuy on a leash to my right. A couple people running with a dog approached me from the opposite direction. Chuy lunged in front of me to say “hello,” tripping me in the process, and I went down hard.

Hurt, embarrassed, stunned, and angry, but not seriously injured, I got up, assessed the damage, uttered a “Dang it, Chuy!” and finished my run. Ouch!

Responding naturally to pain

As I was running with Chuy this morning (two days later) — fall free I might add — I was thinking on the topic of pain. Why is our body wired to feel pain? Isn’t it so that we can prevent more serious injury or death? Surely pain is something to be prevented and we so often become focused on avoiding a repeat encounter with that pain. How many things have I quit because it was painful?

But I don’t want to quit running

Reflecting on all of my falls while running, the headlamp has helped me not trip on manhole covers in the dark. Staring at the road instead of my watch has prevented me from tripping over random people who bend over to tie their shoes in the middle of the road during a marathon (true story).

I guess a natural response could be to stop running with Chuy altogether, and perhaps I’d be better off. That would eliminate the pain — although I’m sure he’d exact his revenge on our couch pillows. Instead, I realized that I need to be more careful about giving Chuy all six feet of leash while we run so we both have room. And then should he choose to dart across my path, I can position myself to restrain him without getting tripped. I’ll let you know how that works.

Handling pain at work

My thoughts then went to pain at work. As a customer service or customer experience professional, have you ever gone to a boss asking them to spend money? Perhaps it’s a new feature that multiple customers are asking for. Or perhaps there’s a piece of technology like a cloud-based phone system, ticketing system, learning management system, knowledge base, etc that would make supporting customers so much easier.

I can remember one time when I asked for something and was met with a bunch of questions I didn’t have the answers for. Questions like:

  • What’s the ROI (return on investment)?
  • How much does our current, homegrown system cost us?
  • How much will this cost to implement and who’s going to implement it?
  • What’s the positive impact to customers?

And trust me when I say that “customers and agents will be happier” was not the answer they were looking for. This was to be a data driven decision and I hadn’t prepared any data.

Those sorts of conversations are painful and perhaps it’s easiest to throw in the towel and find another job. Or you could resign yourself to maintaining the status quo.

What if we instead go back to the drawing board and work out the answers to these questions? This path isn’t necessarily the easiest option but it’s the one that leads to growth. While our gut reaction in the midst of pain might be to quit, what if we aim to resist that urge and instead see it as an opportunity to get better, stronger, and be more prepared for the next round?

Anyway, those are the thoughts I pondered on my run this morning. I’d love to hear your thoughts as you ponder the pain you encounter as a customer service or customer experience professional aiming to make a difference in your organization.

Jeremy Watkin is Director of Customer Experience and Support at NumberBarn. He has more than 19 years of experience as a customer service and contact center professional leading high performing teams in the contact center. Jeremy has been recognized numerous times as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, product marketing, social media, and more. When not working you can typically find him spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis. Be sure to connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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