One of the most frequent phrases I tell myself is to, “Work With Purpose.”
Every day, I am given the chance to do something meaningful and make a difference for others. Through coaching and consulting, I help my clients break through their mental barriers and experience a real and lasting transformation.
But there’s more to it than that.
I remind myself that working with purpose affects every area of life.
The way I parent.
How I interact with my spouse.
The type of community member I am.
Where I spend my free time and volunteer hours.
Each and every component of who I am gets run through the grid of what it means to work with purpose. To help me stay focused, I ask myself three primary questions.
Question One: Does it bring meaning and purpose?
Behind this question is the idea of joy in the work I do. It reminds me to engage with work that I deem as significant.
Question Two: Does it bring long-lasting consequences?
Want to live a wasted life? Think only in terms of short-term, instant-gratification results.
Want to work with purpose? Think long term. Now thing longer.
I’m not talking about six months or a year. I’m talking 10, 20, or 50 years from now. Some of the decisions I make today are because I’ve intentionally thought about the effect this may have on my grandkids when they are working.
My actions are filtered through an eternal perspective.
To work with purpose, I think less in terms of what feels good now, and instead how good discipline in the moment, however unwanted, produces long-term fruit that can be harvested for several generations.
Question Three: Does it help someone else?
This last question is about service. I don’t want to engage in work that is only (or even predominately) self-service. I want to help others. One of the clearest calls and commands in my life is that I am here for the benefit of others.
It’s why I coach, teach, consult, podcast, parent, write, speak, and volunteer.
I want my work to be filled with meaning and purpose.
I want it to bless those that come after me
And I want it to have an immediate impact on those around me.
That’s what it means to engage in work with purpose.
Years ago, I worked in a local print and ship store. When I was hired, part of my training included some of the standard customer service training. This included ideas like, “service with a smile.”
As you can imagine, during the holiday rush to ship packages the lines are long. Additionally, nerves are frayed, anger is simmering, and spending additional money to send gifts (at an often higher price than anticipated) is often met with some resistance.
Despite all of our marketing campaigns to let people know the last day they could send packages and still have them arrive before Christmas, it never failed that we were swamped on Christmas eve.
Suddenly, it’s six pm, and right before we close a customer would come in wanting to ship gifts to their family.
“I’d like it there overnight.”
After calculating the size of the box, the need to package everything, additional insurance, and the overnight charge, the expense was usually well over $100.
At this point, one of two responses would usually happen.
The first person would say something like, “That’s what I get for waiting. Let’s do it.”
The second person would berate me for being a victim-preying, money stealing, Christmas-ruining, greedy, evil-minded cashier.
And if I was really lucky, I would hear about how much more educated, rich, or important they were than me.
Three Steps Towards Better Service With a Smile
Providing great customer service is never an option. It can, and should, always be done. Even in the midst of the difficult and unreasonable customers (here’s looking at you, Karen), our obligation as success-oriented individuals extends into the way we interact with others.
Service humanizes relationships between the customer and the company … Service is your company’s ability to maximize customer satisfaction.*
Marcus Whitney’s six core business value is about the service we provide our customers. Whether you are trying to solve a product issue or a customer problem, world-class customer service is a must.
This is even more true today as the world deals with the economic hardships of COVID. How a business responds to its customers is more important than ever.
The idea behind providing service with a smile is about much more than a physical action. It is about an attitude and a mindset to help you solve and resolve a situation.
Here are three core concepts to take with you on your customer “service with a smile” journey. More than that, think of these as a good-better-best situation where each of the below points builds on the previous.
1.) The Customer is Always Right … Except when they aren’t.
Dealing with an irate customer can be difficult. The person standing before me, cursing me out on Christmas Eve is but a tame example in many people’s books.
And we’ve often been led to believe that the customer is always right. Which is true.
Except for when it isn’t.
I am (nor have I ever been) any of those things that the customer accused me of. In fact, I love Christmas. I geek out over it more than almost anyone else and would love to have it go on even longer.
For reference, we started singing and listening to Christmas songs in October this year.
So how do we understand this rule? By separating the customer from the problem.
Where the customer is always right is specifically in regards to an issue or a problem that needs to be resolved. In my case, it was the need to get the gifts to their family safely, quickly, and for an agreeable price.
Overnight is $109. Two-day shipping is $79 and will get there the day after Christmas. Standard shipping is saying three to five days and is $29. All of these come with tracking and insurance. Which option would you prefer?
If I can give them options, and let them know they have choices in the matter, we can find a solution that works for everyone. Many times, they’d opt for the two-day shipping and the out of, “I sent it but the crazy shipping company can’t get it to you on time sweetie.”
I can live with that.
2.) Am I Doing My Best To Engage This Person and Solve Their Problem?
Going beyond a simple problem-solution type of answer, we can also look at the person and see the need, fear, or worry they are bringing to the situation.
More than giving them a list of shipping options, I can also say something like:
I see that Christmas is really important to you and that you really love your family. I’d like to help make Christmas special and get your gifts there as quickly as possible. Let me see what I can do.
Now, instead of just three choices, I’ve affirmed their humanity, the fear they carry of ruining Christmas and honored a core aspect of their identity.
Think of the difference in the answer to these questions:
Did I solve the problem? It’s a yes or no answer, with very little insight.
Did I do my best to engage this person in solving the problem? Now there is tremendous potential for reflection, growth, and future action.
3.) Go Beyond Your Customer and Into the Community
The final step in the service with a smile growth journey is to think beyond the walls of your business and the experience in the community. The exponential growth of sites like Google Reviews and Yelp show just how damaging a bad review can be.
More than solving the problem, more than honoring them think about what it means to be a part of the community.
How does your customer service change if you think about the businesses on either side of you? What about those that haven’t heard of you yet but would be likely to buy from you? How does your response change if you had to publicize it to your email list?
When we think about larger implications, especially those of how we want to be perceived and received in the community, it can change our responses.
Go beyond solving the problem. Go beyond doing your personal best. Instead, strive to make the entire community better through the experience.
That’s world-class customer service.
Eight Core Concepts
This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.
In a world increasingly divided and hostile, the best thing we can offer is service with a smile.
The Benefits of Smiling
It’s not something we think about often, but there are benefits associated with smiling. In addition to providing a warm, welcoming demeanor, smiling has other benefits, like:
Regulate blood sugar
Stronger immune system
Create a positive mindset
But here’s the crazy thing. Smiling, scientists have discovered, is contagious. This means that when you smile (and get these benefits), others will too!
Service With A Smile
I remember a conflict I was in with one former employer. He wanted to know why I never smiled at him when he walked into the office. Convinced something was wrong between us, he began to harbor feelings of anger and resentment. It carried into other spheres of working together, and eventually, I was almost written up over it!
The sad truth? My desk faced the doors and I’d often look up, lost in thought. If they walked by, it wasn’t that I was upset, angry, or dismissive of them. I was simply thinking too hard!
But this did cause me to become more aware of my facial expressions towards others. Instead of dismissing those claims, I took them to heart. I want everything I do to be a warm, welcoming place for people to be around.
I made a conscious effort to work on smiling when engaging others. For someone used to being accused of RBF, this was no small challenge. It has been, however, entirely worth it. The effort to put more work into smiling and engaging others has proved useful for business and personal reasons.
One of the great things that smiling does for us as leaders are that it engages others. It marks us as warm, approachable, open, affirming, and in control.
Smiling communicates that we are calm and steadfast.
Providing service with a smile is more than plastering on a fake veneer, it is training our brain, and those around us, to look for the good in all situations.
It demonstrates our ability to work under pressure.
Service with a smile provides reassuring calm in the midst of surrounding storms.
One area I’ve seen this work is in parenting. When I need to have difficult conversations with my children, I make sure to put on a smile. Not to dismiss wrong or correctable behavior, but to let them know that it is okay. Everything is going to work out fine. Sometimes, I even let them know, “I’m not bad, but I do want to talk about what happened.”
This works in the workplace as well. Really, in all areas where we feel called to lead.
Service with a smile lets others know that we will all get through this together.
Take An Inventory
The easiest way to get started experiencing the benefits of smiling is to smile. The quickest way to get there is to take an inventory.
Where are the moments we struggle with the most? How have we responded? What would we like to do differently?
Start by planning your day, based on how you want to engage the world and what you hope to accomplish with a smile.
Then, think about the common places where you’re interacting with people and write down intentional things you will do to smile and engage them.
One area where I had to work hard (and to be honest, I’m still working at) is to smile when I produce online content. It’s not that I’m unhappy or grump. Instead, it’s that I take seriously my calling to make great content that I get so focused on that that I can forget to enjoy myself.
I’ve started to write down physical notes when I record (or speak live) to smile. It’s actually in my notes, BE SURE TO SMILE HERE.
It engages the audience and creates rapport.
Smiling communicates value.
It demonstrates appreciation.
As leaders, everything we do is monitored. To be at our best, one simple way is to smile.
Creating opportunities for service with a smile transforms our thinking, influences our actions, transforms conflict, creates opportunity, and advances the mission.