This article originally appeared on the FCR blog on March 15, 2019. Click here to read the original post.
I thoroughly enjoy running and have been doing so for more than a decade. I don’t participate in nearly as many races as I used to but still manage to hit the road for an hour or so four days a week, some time between 5 and 6am. It’s something I can’t live without at this point.
One thing I’ll tell you about my running is that I can probably count the number of times I’ve used a treadmill in those ten years on two hands or less. I used to own a treadmill that collected dust in a corner. When I started running I read magazines that pointed to the benefits of running on roads versus treadmills and somehow the road became my track of choice. Nothing beats the cool, crisp air first thing in the morning along with the peace and quiet, and I’ve learned to appreciate that more and more before tackling the busyness of each day.
Somewhere in there I began developing a belief or bias that treadmills were inferior to running outside. That was until one day when I was on a run with one of my favorite running buddies — my big sister. We don’t live near each other so any time we get to run together is a real treat — and for the record, her Boston Marathon Finisher jacket is proof that she can run circles around me. In one conversation, she began speaking with me about the challenges of running outside. She talked about how some of her friends who ran alone had experienced very scary and dangerous encounters with men who meant to harm them. And as I’ve met other women who run, I’ve heard several similar stories.
Slowly but surely my stance on treadmills began to change. I began to list all of the possible reasons someone might opt for a treadmill. Here’s what I came up with:
- Safety. People are creepy and cars are dangerous. The absence of safe trails, available running buddies, and adequate lighting can make a treadmill a better option.
- Lots of kids. I’m proud to say that I’ve pushed two kids in a stroller and had another alongside on a bike. While I’ve felt like superman in those moments it’s a lot of work, it’s not peaceful, and not terribly sustainable. There are many mornings and evenings where the kids are asleep and the only way to get a workout in is indoors. I think of the single parent where on most days this would be the only option.
- Stability. A treadmill offers something to hold onto for added stability. Think of the person recovering from a serious injury or the elderly person working to build their strength and endurance.
- Dog fitness. I wouldn’t have believed it until I saw it. Some dogs love treadmills and it’s a great way for them to burn off their energy.
- Weather. Part of my bias came from living in San Diego, California where there’s never snow and almost no ice. On a recent icy morning here in Oregon I ran a total of 0.17 miles before realizing that there was no traction and a run was not possible that day.
- Cougars and Bears. Admittedly, I’m not sure I’m terribly geeked up about extensive trail running by myself in the presence of bears and cougars — at least not at all hours of the day. Anyone who knows me probably doesn’t mention me in the guy most likely to kill a cougar with his bare hands conversation.
- Cool factor. If you think running on a treadmill is still about an industrial strength conveyor belt for your home, you need to check out what treadmills are capable of these days. With Zwift Run, you can virtually run on legendary courses in the company of elite runners. Tread from Peloton and NordicTrack include a 32” flat screen experience and access to thousands of workouts with top fitness instructors.
I think I may have just sold myself on a treadmill, but that’s not actually the point of this post. Let’s take a minute to apply what I’ve done here to customer service.
Seeing another’s perspective in customer service
What I just did was to take something I believed to be true — a bias if you will — and took a moment to see things from another perspective. My list is actually fairly comprehensive and I’m sure I still missed some reasons. The truth is that even though I can generally go running outside at all hours of the day, that doesn’t apply to everyone. In fact, it’s very possible that I’m in the minority on this issue.
Moving beyond the running discussion, we are constantly faced with people who have a different perspective than we do. They believe and behave differently on a range of topics and it’s certainly common for folks to hold fast to their beliefs no matter what. While that may work for some, it will only get you so far if you plan a career in customer service or any profession that requires collaboration with people.
Extraordinary customer service professionals certainly have their beliefs about how the world works. What sets them apart is their ability to listen to the perspective of another person. To be interested in their customs or beliefs. To be respectful of their pronouns or dietary preferences or a whole variety of issues. Like my conversation with my sister, extraordinary customer service professionals have the ability to empathize with and recognize that, “This is an issue of significance for this person,” even though they may not have given it a second thought themselves before that conversation.
If you want to truly offer great customer service, approach every customer interaction with an open mind and make what’s significant to your customer significant to you. And most certainly listen and be respectful. Who knows? You might find that running on a treadmill isn’t so bad after all.