Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Customer Service Week: Part Five – Virtue of Humor

Thanks for stopping by for our final entry of CSOFT’s Customer Service Week with our fifth, and arguably most important, virtue. If you’re just joining us now, the concept of Customer Service Week originated from the desire to enhance the traditional customer service model with a fresh and more efficient approach. Every day this week, we’ve introduced different virtues that we believe are central to quality customer service. So far, we’ve already covered the importance of focus, perception, responsiveness, and innovation.

Each one of these virtues was chosen with the ideas and concepts of the Taoist tradition in mind. Thousands of years ago, Taoism was founded on the basic belief that followers should find harmony with the Tao, or the Way. The Tao describes a balanced and harmonious way of living with the natural order. Similarly, we believe customer service should not be a reaction to a situation that occurs; rather, it should be an integral part of the entire buyer-seller relationship, shaping attitude, behavior and disposition. Today we will discuss the value of having a sense of humor.

The Fifth Virtue: If nothing else, have a sense of humor

Having a sense of humor is perhaps the most overlooked yet essential virtue that reflects the Tao of Customer Service. And humor in this sense isn’t the ability or willingness to tell jokes, although that helps. In a fast-paced, stressful business environment, humor is a core attitude of looking at things in a positive light. It’s maintaining a sense of proportion and levity.

Humor is especially necessary during moments of crisis or tension. When you approach a problem with a positive attitude, you’ll find that your ability to think clearly increases many times fold. Not only that, but the old cliché of “service with a smile” actually has some merit: even over the phone, you can hear when someone is smiling while they’re talking to you. Not for nothing, smiles are infectious—as is positivity.

A cartoon depiction of bad customer service - from Wikipedia, public domain
Customer service gone wrong.

As a service provider, from time to time you’ll inevitably butt heads with unreasonable clients. In instances when you’re dealing with domineering behavior, part of having a sense of humor is the ability to step back and recognize the fact that your customer isn’t going out of their way to deliberately torture you. In many cases, they just had a bad day or are merely projecting the heat that they themselves received from their own boss. And when this happens, sharing emotional burdens is part of being an attentive service provider.

Humor, when employed in all its forms, results in openness towards, acceptance, and even appreciation of the unexpected. It will make you enjoy your job more, and it’ll certainly make your customers more willing to come to you for help.

The Unknowable, Unnamable Tao

In any business, competing over price alone is not a sustainable model—someone can always produce things cheaper. If you’re selling new gadgets or newfangled technology, another company might come along and copy or reproduce your products. Strong customer service, however, is nearly impossible to duplicate. It’s a visceral asset of your company’s culture that your competitors can never outright undersell or destroy.

For sellers who can benefit from its application in their own business, for buyers who are looking to better define service-related requirements for their vendors, and for those who just plain enjoy the philosophical ramblings of old Chinese men … though I can’t help you understand the Tao of Customer Service, I can assure you that adopting these five knowable virtues into your daily attitude at work will help you one day grow to become the de facto yin to your client’s yang.

We truly hope you have enjoyed our Customer Service Week! As always, if you have any thoughts or opinions about the posts you’ve read, feel free to share them below.

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