I was playing golf once and a member of our foursome who owns his own business asked me what he should tell his employees so they would deliver great service. It did not take me but a minute, I looked up and said, “You have to give a shit.” A little crude, yes, but I like to put an exclamation mark on things every once in a while.
With a surprised look, he asked, “Is that it?” I told him that basically it was. I told him that his team members had to care about more than the work they do, they had to care about the people they did it for. And those people were not just customers but co-workers as well. I told him that if he would begin demonstrating this care himself and make it a key message, he would see a remarkable change in his workplace and his customers.
I know none of that is earth shattering or anything, but it is always surprising how much of a shock it seems to provoke when I mention it. Why is something so key to business—an enterprise critically reliant on human-to-human connection after all—such a small part of the professional conversation? Take, for example, this job description for a customer service representative.
- Listen to customers’ questions and concerns and provide answers or responses
- Provide information about products and services
- Take orders, calculate charges, and process billing or payments
- Review or make changes to customer accounts
- Handle returns or complaints
- Record details of customer contacts and actions taken
- Refer customers to supervisors or more experienced employees
Now, keep in mind that this is a job role where the prime responsibility is interacting with people, yet there is no mention of caring about those people. Everything here is a technical task. Nowhere is there anything remotely warm and human unless you count the use of the word listen. Nowhere does it say, “must be able to empathize and show compassion.” Nowhere does it say, “must show concern for the well-being of others.” Why? Why have we made our workplaces zones of cold inhumanity? It is bad enough that we have done it in places of little interaction, but we have done it in places where the principal work is to collaborate with others.
Imagine if we made “must care about others” the first thing in those customer service job descriptions. Better yet, imagine if it was part of everybody’s job description. How would our workplaces change? How would it be if everyone in our workplaces cared about the others they worked with, customers and co-workers alike? How much would all of us benefit with a little more empathy and compassion?
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