Customer Service: It’s a Life of Service

February 7, 2008

Photo of Zane SafritWhen you’re in customer service, you’re in a life of service. Your day is focused on those customers’ needs: listening for them, anticipating them, identifying them, and then finding solutions and meeting, maybe even exceeding, their needs.

This insight was so obvious I’d overlooked it. Steve Rucinski reminded me of it after he interviewed me, along with Anita Campbell, at Small Business Trends Radio. He called after the show. We got to talking and he said something very simple, very honest, very illuminating: Customer service is a life of service.

It’s as unglamourous, overlooked and unappreciated a position as all positions of service can offer. It’s a life of servitude, even devotion, of putting their needs in front of yours. By its very nature it’s a humbling role. Putting others’ needs first builds a humble person. Maybe that’s why those in customer service are often such good listeners.

And maybe the nature of customer service, putting your customers’ needs in front of your own, reinforces the tendencies of others less humble to overlook or dismiss the importance of this function. How important can you be if others are always more important? Right? In customer service everyone’s more important than you, right?

Funny. Funny as in sadly ironic that so-o-o many companies communicate those upside-down values; in terms of their priorities, customer service comes last. They’ve got meetings to attend and reports to complete. The meetings are a chance to share their ideas. And the reports shout their success… and tally their incentives. No customers allowed.

A company’s mere existence is based on how well it serves the needs of its customers and staff. What’s more important than serving your customers? What better way to communicate a customer’s importance than putting their needs first?

Those needs start with their phone call or e-mail. Drop what you’re doing and answer it. It’s a simple act communicating that your work takes a back seat to their needs, even if you’re in a meeting or totalling your incentives. It’s an act of service. If done well, with genuine enthusiasm — and we’re not talking perfection, because we’re in the business of making profits, not saints — you repeat this day in and day out, and you live a life of service. And you have a sustainable business.

It can be that simple — and profitable. Lives of service always are.

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