The Day I Became a Customer Service Expert and Two Important Lessons 

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Leaders May Not Understand Customer Service

“Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  

This line has been credited to Confucius, Mark Twain, Mark Anthony and others. Anyone who finds what they love to do at work, either through a passion, hobby, interest, a random job they end up loving, or some defining moment is lucky. That makes me one of the lucky ones. Just out of college I started my career as a customer service expert. It wasn’t a random job I applied for. It was a chosen profession that had its roots in something that happened to me when I was younger, an event that caused me to become obsessed with customer service. 

I’ve written about being a 12-year-old birthday party magician when my parents taught me some basic customer service lessons. Show up on time, say thank you, follow up to get feedback, and a few other important lessons that any and every business should practice. These lessons laid the foundation that ignited my passion for customer service. Then something happened eight years later while I was in college and working at a gas station, which is when I discovered that I was passionate about customer service. 

The right thing to do

I was working at a self-service gas station. We didn’t accept credit cards, so when customers finished filling up their tanks, we would go to their car, take their money and make the appropriate change.   

On one very, very cold day, I offered to help an elderly lady pump the gas for her car. I told her to stay in the warm car. She appreciated my assistance, but my manager didn’t. When I came inside, he yelled at me for helping her and emphasized the meaning of a self-service gas station. I defended my position. The lady was old and frail. It was the right thing to do! 

He said, “Now she’s going to expect that the next time she comes back,” to which I replied, “I hope she does come back, instead of going to the station across the street or on the opposite corner.” He gave me an angry look and slammed the door as he walked out of the building.  

That was a defining moment. It was the right thing to do, and more importantly, I liked how it felt. I recognized this intense desire to take care of customers, eventually causing me, less than a year out of college, to teach others to do the same.  

Decades later, I think back to this experience and can spot two lessons that are very important to every business: 

  1. Some people are passionate about customer service. They love taking care of people, solving their problems, and turning negatives into positives. These are the people you want to hire to be on the frontline of your business. (By the way, I am one of those people.) 
  1. The title of manager, supervisor, or any other type of leader doesn’t mean the person knows how to take care of customers, let alone has a passion for doing so. It is frustrating when “the boss” doesn’t understand the people side of the business. If all they are focused on is the process or the bottom line and they don’t take their employees and customers into consideration, you’ll have a well-run business that loses to a competitor who creates a better customer experience. 

The point is that if you want your organization to be customer-focused, you must find the right people to run, manage and work for the company. In a perfect world, you’ll find people who have a passion for doing so. And if you ask them how they feel about the saying, “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” they will say, “That’s me!” 

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