Once upon a time, service was easy. There was less pressure and fewer expectations to meet in order to provide what we’d call ‘quality service’.
Being responsive was simple and satisfying. In the 21st century, however, we’ve become so focused on systems and speed that we’ve forgotten service still is, and always will be, about building long-lasting relationships. So the goal to great service is actually very simple, and human, and can be done in these five steps.
- Let go of the outcome
Humans are unpredictable creatures. So, when you serve people, you will not always know what response is coming your way. You can’t control other people’s reactions, and it’s unrealistic to think that you’re in complete control of a situation that involves another human being.
When you see yourself, at the beginning of an interaction with a colleague or customer, holding tightly onto the outcome you want or what you expect the other person to do or say, just remind yourself that you cannot control everything. Loosen your grip on your expectations.
- Accept responsibility
You know that saying, ‘Don’t throw your colleagues under the bus’? When there’s been an error and people are under scrutiny, they sometimes like to inform others of the cause of the error – which can sometimes lead to blaming another member of the team in order to protect themselves, or worse, pushing it back on the customer.
Service requires you to take full responsibility, especially when serving customers: you represent the brand, the business, the team, regardless of your role. When there’s a breakdown in the service chain, it’s better to direct your energy and effort into creating a solution rather than into ducking and weaving, pointing the finger at who caused the problem.
- Ask for help
In a service environment, you’re continually presented with situations that may never have occurred before, let alone been planned for. Sometimes, people hold off on asking for help in such situations because they’re afraid of looking silly or not having all the answers – this is a limiting belief. You’re allowing your pride and ego to be more dominant than the needs of the individual you’re serving.
The best professionals in service are those who are confident enough to know their strengths and humble enough to know their limitations – which means that from time to time, they ask for help.
- Be solution focused
We’ve all been there – dealing with rude customers. But complaining behind their back or repeated complaining over time wires your brain for more future complaining. It becomes a habit, and you soon find it easier to be negative than positive.
The best way to serve yourself, your team and your customer is to raise it in a solutions-focused way. Stick to the facts, which are always neutral. And if you’re tempted to gossip about a customer, stop and think before you do. Ask yourself, ‘What will gossiping about this person achieve? Is there something more productive I could do, like getting on with providing them with a solution?’
- Love to serve
In her book Return to Love, Marianne Williamson reminds us that we all have the same opportunity in every encounter to give to others and serve humanity. That includes casual encounters, such as a customer you meet once, as well as encounters that are part of sustained relationships, such as with a long-term colleague or employee.
You will always have something to learn from the people you serve, regardless of the power you or they hold. When you are in service to others, they will teach you something about yourself that will make you a better person – that’s one of the universal laws in life.
So if all else fails, remember what Gandhi said: ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’.