This article was originally posted on the ICMI Blog during National Customer Service Week on October 2, 2018. Click here to read the original post.
Can we all acknowledge that customer service is a hard job? Whether we’re working at a great company with a great product and customer experience or we’re getting abused all day, every day supporting a flawed product, customer service is taxing work and requires regular appreciation and inspiration. After all, we’re serving people, and people are messy. With that in mind, I want to pause for a moment and echo the words of Jeff Toister in his brand new book, Customer Service Tip of the Week. He dedicates the book to customer service professionals everywhere saying, “I admire you for your dedication, your concern for others, and your genuine desire to make someone else’s day better.” I couldn’t agree more!
Now, I don’t have an extensive collection of books on my customer service bookshelf, but as I glance over, I feel somewhat of a connection with many of these books. At one point or another, each one has enlightened me and sometimes kicked my butt, as I learn to serve customers better.
Given that it’s National Customer Service Week, and we’re remembering awesome customer service and the people behind it, I thumbed through some of those books in search of inspiration. What follows are some quotes I had previously underlined, and I hope they help us and perhaps challenge us all to serve customers better.
“If you ask me, your attitude is one of the most important determinants of your future…Be the person who steps up when things go wrong. Be the person who changes the topic when someone won’t stop complaining.” ~Adam Toporek, Be Your Customer’s Hero
This one is a hard pill to swallow, and it speaks a lot about the culture in our organizations and contact centers. The easy thing to do so often is to gripe about coworkers and customers in between calls and it absolutely spills over into our interactions with customers. The less popular and more difficult thing to do is to take responsibility for our attitude and stay positive consistently, but that’s precisely what great customer service professionals do. When we’re positive, we’re in our very best mindset to serve customers well and hopefully infect the rest of our colleagues with a little positivity at the same time.
“At any given time, one person will represent the entire organization: the brand, the other employees, the building, everything. Every employee must know and understand the importance of this inescapable reality, which I call the awesome responsibility.” ~Shep Hyken, The Cult of the Customer
Do you realize that a customer may only interact with your company one time — especially if it’s a bad experience? That IS an awesome responsibility. We have one shot to get it right in some cases, and while that responsibility doesn’t rest solely on individual customer service representatives, a whole lot of it does. Customer service professionals have a huge opportunity and play a massive part in the success of the companies they represent. That’s scary and cool at the same time, right?
“Every customer service contact is an opportunity to strengthen that relationship, even when things have gone horribly wrong. In fact, when you or your company make a mistake, how well you handle it can enhance the relationship you already have with your client.” ~Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest, Who’s Your Gladys?
Similar to the last quote, this is one thing I love about customer service. We have an opportunity to make a difference in every customer interaction. We get to solve many problems throughout the course of each day and save who knows how many customers in the process. And when you think about how much money many of those loyal customers are likely to spend over the course of their lifetime with your company, it’s a big deal.
“Innovative service starts with the assumption of the goodness of customers. And such a belief can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Customers treated with goodness assume the behavior and attitude of goodness.” ~Chip Bell, Kaleidoscope
This is a powerful statement about attitude from Chip Bell. It’s so easy to slip into a cynical and almost suspicious mindset where we assume all customers know nothing and they’re out to game the system. Bell is challenging us to change our underlying assumptions and attitudes toward our customers, assuming that they’re good and that they genuinely want to do business with us. This shift in mindset makes it easier to serve customers well.
“When it’s up to me, I choose to win, and not let a bad situation define me and cause me to make bad decisions about my future. Given a choice, and there is always a choice, I choose to have a positive attitude.” ~ Doug Sandler, Nice Guys Finish First
Another quote about attitude? I think we already agree that a positive attitude is essential to great customer service. But can we also agree that it’s a choice? It doesn’t happen by chance, and good or bad, our attitude isn’t something that happens to us. That means that a huge part of our success in serving others well and with a great attitude is within our control.
OK, I slipped in one quote of my own after just recently being reminded of a post I wrote almost five years ago. It took me a long time to come to this realization that the person on the other end of the phone, email, chat, text, tweet, etc. is a human being JUST LIKE ME! Strip everything else away, and you remember that these people also have families, livelihoods, careers, cares, and concerns. When we do that it (hopefully) taps into something altruistic in each one of us, and we begin to find purpose and meaning in the simple act of helping another human being.
When you put it that way, you begin to realize that being in a profession where you serve others is a great and noble career. For those of you that serve day in and day out with a positive and selfless attitude, Happy Customer Service Week! I appreciate you.