by Vanessa F. Hurst
The quality of custom service is an outward indication of the organization’s inward culture. Great service is an attribute of a culture where all are respected and appreciated for who they are. What if we rename customer service to constituent or stakeholder service? Adopting a helpful, respectful stance toward everyone — coworkers, customers, and other stakeholders internal and external — the workplace becomes a wide open place where possibilities thrive. Compassion flows.
What skills are necessary to provide quality constituent service? Being present in the moment, listening with the intent to really hear, and knowing our triggers are three awarenesses that increase an employee’s ability to provide quality service. While some issues may not be resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, the respondent is able to be respectful and encouraging despite adversity.
Often the initial contact occurs when an issue needs to be resolved. Emotions may be high and opportunities to react rampant. The potential for both parties to get caught in the tangle of conflict exists. Unless the respondent professionally addresses the issue is fully present in the moment, s/he may unintentionally react and escalate the initial problem. Nothing is able to be resolved when both parties are upset. Their ability to effectively listen is compromised.
“Being in the moment” means focusing on what is happening in the present instead of attention being drawn into the past or leaping headlong into the future. Listening to the external conversation not only to understand it but to also recognize how it is internally impacting the hearer helps root us in present time. If we are thinking about what happened yesterday or about an event occurring in the future, our attention is drawn away from the moment, and we lose focus. We miss what has the potential to trip our triggers. Our power of choice is lost. We react to the angst or anger of the other person.
Listening involves using our ears and other parts of our being. It is a full body experience. How our body reacts to an interaction with another as well as their words and tone provide important clues to our emotional and mental states. What is said innocently may trigger all sorts of reactions in the one listening. When we attend to our physical, emotional, and mental states, our attention is less likely to be drawn into the past or future. We are fully present to the one speaking. And, we catch any reactions we may have before they are fully blown.
Listening to our bodies and minds, we discover what in the external environment is triggering us. We can choose to not take the words and action of another personally. Through awareness of the catalysts of our reactions, we gain power — the power of choice. We choose to engage in mindful activities such as focusing on the breath and consciously relaxing the body. These mindful practices create the space for intentional communication.
No matter how much we learn about providing service to resolve conflict, our ability to provide quality service depends upon awareness of triggers and our propensity to react. With awareness, we choose response and, in doing so, work with others to de-escalate. Questions are answered and the potential to resolve the issue increases. This is the power of compassion that begins with the individual and permeates coworkers, customers, and other stakeholders.
Vanessa F. Hurst is a community builder who works with organizations to identify compassion aspects of their culture and to create a collaborative environment. She consults with organizations to strengthen relationships with current stakeholders and invites new stakeholders to the community.