I was trying to get an old car ready to pass inspection. The Check Engine light was on, and I am somewhat mechanical, so I went to an auto supply store and asked them to pull the code so I could see if I could fix it myself. At the first store the clerk looked at me coldly and asked if I knew how to use their code reader. I didn’t of course, so he sighed and walked out to my car. He obtained the code and announced it was a problem with the air intake. It could be several things. I asked him what they were and he said I should take the car to a shop where they had a better computer and could fix the car for me.
That defeated the purpose I had in mind, so I went to a second store. They tested the car and said it was likely either a dirty air filter or a mass air sensor. It turned out to be the mass air sensor and I bought one from them and replaced my bad mass air sensor with their new one. I returned the bad one and the store and they gave me a core deposit back. It took me ten minutes.
I recall Patricia Fripp saying “Your business is only as good as your worst employee.” While the first store is a mile closer than the second, you can guess where I go to keep my many old cars running. That “convenient” store lost a customer, one whose old cars demand a constant flow of parts. They had a employee whose attitude was that customers were a bother.
On the one hand, you can say that the store manager failed to train. At the same time, I suspect that employee brought a certain chip-on-the-shoulder attitude to the store.
I was asked to create a customer service program for a local business, and it seems to me that skill training is good and important. “When a customer asks us to pull a Check Engine code, you smile, and enthusiastically go to their car and pull the code. Try to suggest something from our store that is likely to solve the problem.”
At the same time, it is worthwhile to teach employees to look into their own hearts. What do they think their job is? How do they feel about customers? How good of a job do they intend to do? How do they know if they are doing an excellent job?
As I have been working on this customer service module, I am focused on heart-focused skills like nurturing empathy and compassion toward customers.
Psychologists have been studying empathy and compassion, and we now know some specific tools to increase them. For example, noticing when people are suffering will improve our ability to empathize. So simply showing employees how, in a sense, people become customers because they do suffer. When we recognize that suffering, it helps us serve them more effectively.
Another tool is synchronous movements. Experiments showed that people who tap their hands in time with each other then show more empathy for each other. Similarly, if an employee will demonstrate some type of movement synchrony, such as nodding when the customer nods, he / she will feel more in tune with the customer.
We are emphasizing the value in looking into one’s heart. Our idea is that when the heart is in the right place, customer service will naturally follow.
When have you felt generous and genuine customer service? Do you think my colleagues and I are right? Was the customer service “from the heart?”
We all have customers, whatever we do for a living. Where is your heart when it comes to the people you can and ought to serve?