Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Emptying Your Cup

Learning about the Zen of Customer Service reminds me of one of my favorite Zen Buddhist stories. The story goes that a learned man sought out a great Buddhist master to learn about Zen. But, instead of listening to the master, the learned man proceeded to tell the master everything he knew. After listening for a while, the master poured the man a cup of tea. The tea cup filled and the master continued to pour; tea overflowing from the sides of the cup. "Don't you see that the cup is already full?" exclaimed the learned man. The master stopped, looked at him, and replied, "exactly, in order to put anything more in, you first have to empty your cup."

The point? In order to learn this new approach to customer service, you must empty yourself of your preconceived notions of customer service and even Zen Buddhism. I don't know about you, but I have been through a lot of classes that give you the "ABCs of Customer Service" or the secret to being a Customer Service "STAR" with the letters S-T-A-R representing some four aspects of the ideal customer service exchange. Each year is something new but nothing ever seems to last. Why not? My thought is that these classes and workshops are only superficial fixes -- showing one how to "act" like a good customer service representative without really getting to the core issues. What are those core issues? The core issues, issue really, is about attitude. The pervading issue in call centers today is that many of the employees simply don't like their jobs, don't like their customers, and work in an environment that perpetuates this idea. Don't get me wrong, I have known many customer service representatives who love their work and their customers and you know what? It shows. If you are a customer service manager or supervisor you know who I'm talking about -- you probably have a few in your own group. When I was a customer service supervisor I distinctly remember two -- Janet and Karen. Both loved their work and really provided excellent service to their customers.

The others plod along, dreading the next call and providing sub-par customer service. You can throw all the four steps, STARs, and ABCs at them and you know what? They are still going to provide poor customer service.

Zen Buddhism, I believe, provides the answer to delivering transfomational customer service training. The key lies in the teaching of their basic tenet, "The Four Noble Truths." More about that in another blog.

One more thing -- don't worry about this blog trying to convert you to Buddhism. It's not. The great thing about Buddhism is that it is not a religion as much as it is a way of life -- a philosophy of life so to speak.

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