Delivering Purposeful Customer Service in a Toxic EnvironmentJune’s issue of The Leader Letter was published last week with a series of my May blogs on customer service (the opening story on Where’s Your Culture on the Customer-Cattle Continuum?, “Want to Improve Customer Service? Treat Your Employees Better“, “American Express Boosts Customer Service with Transformed Leadership and Culture“, and “Delightful Dell Service Shows a Real Turnaround“).

Just after publication, a reader’s e-mail to me started with:

“I always feel that you all are poised outside my office window (which could be challenging, considering that my office is perched on the 8th floor), listening to the “coconut-telegraph” and then you formulate your monthly newsletter topics.  Seriously, I enjoyed all of the articles and the way in which the thematic threads joined them all.”

Honest, I wasn’t hanging outside her 8th floor window! I am not sure what the “coconut-telegraph” is but it could be a useful — and less dangerous — way to hear about what’s on reader’s minds.

Laura went on to make a vital point on how to provide “customer service in a toxic environment:

Sometimes, a person has to find his or her own rewards in what they do. One can never count on a management team or corporate leadership to be positive. I have found that I have to be proactive with myself, since no one is forcing me to continue working in an environment where internal customers are not as valued as the external ones.

I make it my mission to ‘be that person’ to the callers who speak with me on our customer service line. My customers are calling to lodge a quality of care complaint about medical service that they have received from providers. They are usually at the end of their ropes, have been transferred from pillar to post, and are anticipating that I am yet another customer service representative longing to get them off my back and off the phone.

I make it a point to listen to them, hear what they are saying, and to advocate on their behalf.  It’s my mission to establish a meaningful relationship and to provide my name, number, hours of work so that they can count on me in the future. My rewards rarely come from my supervisors or my company. Instead they come from the people I serve and the satisfaction I get in knowing that I have made a difference in their lives, even if it is just one person a day.”

This is an excellent example of Leading in a toxic environment rather than going along (Following), or becoming an embittered victim of a deadly culture (Wallowing). Laura’s describing what’s now been clearly proven to be our most powerful motivator: a deep sense of meaning and purpose that transforms a job into a cause or calling.

Click on Deepening Spirit, Meaning, and Purpose to peruse a series of articles on this critical topic so central to flourishing in our work and life. You might want to especially read “Just a Job or a Source of Deeper Joy and Meaning?Just a Job or Part of Our Deeper Purpose?” or “Stop Working and Start Living.