This week I delivered a seminar to one of the largest government agencies in the District of Columbia. Attendance was mandatory and the topic of the seminar was supposed to be about customer service. But I decided to broaden the focus just a bit.
So, instead of the usual class about “walking in the shoes of the customer” and “being polite and friendly,” I wanted those in attendance to emerge from my seminar with a framework that would help them deconstruct service. I wanted them to be able to see service as an experience; as something that is based on a series of social interactions that are anchored by touchpoints that can leave lasting impressions.
Now, this might sound complicated. But I tried my best to simplify my message by condensing it into the following key points:
- [ut_highlight color=”#1e73be”] Everyone has a story. [/ut_highlight] We each have hundreds, if not thousands, of encounters with other people on a daily basis. Most of us process those encounters as stories; as a series of interactions that we recall as snapshots in time. As we tell our stories, we don’t necessarily focus on every detail. Instead, we focus on a few memorable moments that made a lasting impression on us. So, when you interact with a customer or a co-worker, we are creating one of many memorable moments that will influence how they construct their story. It’s up to us to be aware of the critical touchpoints around us.[ut_highlight color=”#1e73be”] Every story has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. [/ut_highlight] I urged the participants to remember that we often find ourselves in situations where someone else’s mood or behavior has already been shaped by an interaction they had before their encounter with us. The beginning of our story might not be the beginning of their story. Despite that, we can still strive to co-create an ending that allows them to feel valued and recognized.[ut_highlight color=”#1e73be”] There is a price to incivility. [/ut_highlight] I shared with them some research by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson that vividly shows the cascading impact of incivility in the workplace. Bad experiences with a boss or a co-worker can have an adverse effect on how hard we work, on our commitment to our organization, and on our willingness to do our jobs. More importantly, many of us take our frustration and anger out on the customers we serve. That ultimately guided me to my final point.[ut_highlight color=”#1e73be”] Hurt people, hurt people. [/ut_highlight] I reminded them that it’s often the case that some of the worst and most toxic interactions stem from encounters with people who are wounded. It’s up to us to see beyond the discomfort they are causing us, to the pain that’s influencing their behavior. I urged them to find the strength and the courage to stop the cycle of “violence” (emotional and psychological) that is present in so many work environments.
I closed the seminar by reading an excerpt from one of my favorite books.
It’s called Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud.
Here are some of my favorite lines from the book.
All day long, everyone in the whole wide world
walks around carrying an invisible bucket.
You can’t see it, but it’s there.
Everyone carries an invisible bucket.
Your bucket has one purpose only.
Its purpose is to hold your good thoughts and good feelings about yourself.
You feel very happy and good when your bucket is full
and you feel very sad and lonely when your bucket is empty.
Other people feel the same way, too.
They’re happy when their buckets are full
and they’re sad when their buckets are empty.
It’s great to have a full bucket
and this is how it works.
You need other people to fill your bucket
and other people need you to fill theirs.
So, how do you fill a bucket?
You fill a bucket when you show love to someone,
when you say or do something kind,
or even when someone gives you a smile.
That’s being a bucket filler.
But you can also dip into a bucket and take out some good feelings.
You dip into a bucket when you make fun of someone,
when you say or do mean things, or even when you ignore someone.
That’s being a bucket dipper.
© 2006 by Carol McCloud.
I left the audience, and I leave you with this question:
Are you choosing to be a bucket filler or a bucket dipper?