Service Starts With Me

SmileyIt’s Customer Service Week, an annual recognition of the contributions made by individuals whose primary job is to support the customer. It was first introduced in 1984 and made official by President Bush in 1992. In his proclamation, Bush said,

“A business will do a better job of providing high quality goods and services by listening to its employees and by empowering them with opportunities to make a difference.”

 When you think about it, there are really only two types of jobs.

The first is on the front line. It’s the person directly involved in serving the customer – the one taking orders, answering questions, and handling complaints. As the face of the organization, they operate on the line of fire. They never know what’s coming at them next. Will the customer’s issue be easy to handle, difficult, or impossible? Will the customer be agreeable, distraught, or irate? Regardless, they have to be ready to engage and focused on a positive outcome.

The second type of job is less visible, but no less important. It belongs to the person providing support behind the scenes. While they may never be seen by the customer, their performance can make or break the customer experience. They have to get their part right. If a process breaks down, so does the customer’s perception of the organization. If their interaction with a front line coworker is negative, those emotions get passed on to the customer. Just because they aren’t seen, they need to perform as if the customer is watching their every move.

Two jobs, one goal. When I first realized this, it really made me think. I realized that regardless of my role in the organization, responsibility for the customer’s perception of the service they receive rests squarely on my shoulders. There can be no slacking off. I’m either impacting the customer directly or indirectly. In other words, service starts with me.

This concept scares a lot of people. Maybe it scares you. A lot of people don’t see themselves as service providers. In fact, many have fled customer-facing jobs in the hope of avoiding service-related interaction with others. But unless you choose to live the life of a hermit, you interact with (and therefore impact) other people. If you aren’t affecting them positively, you’re affecting them negatively. There is no middle ground.

Fortunately, providing great service isn’t that hard. In fact, the first step is so easy most people overlook it. Are you ready? Here it is … Smile.

That’s it. A simple smile is all it takes. If there was ever a silver bullet for service, this is it. A smile puts you in the right frame of mind to serve other, regardless of your role. When you smile (even though you might not feel like it), you take control of your own emotional state and tip the scale toward a positive outcome. It even works when you’re in the role of the customer. Approach the interaction with a smile and, regardless of their attitude, the other party is impacted in a positive way.

A lot of people bemoan the state of customer service in our country. As your week unfolds, I hope you’ll spend some time reflecting on the nature of service and the important role you play. And I hope you’ll accept this three-part challenge:

  1. Thank the service providers you encounter this week.
  2. Adopt the mantra “Service starts with me.”
  3. Smile.

Happy Customer Service Week.

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