Pay It Forward Customer Service

                Serving others is not all that complex. We make it harder than it really is. I’ve seen flow charts, graphs, and PowerPoints explaining the “ins and outs” and “does and don’ts” of customer service.  I will admit, as a trainer during my life, I have drawn a few of these charts and explained others myself.  It is useful to know the structures and what makes for effective customer service.  But eventually we make customer service about techniques and at times gimmicks, instead of considering it is about relationships and being human toward each other.

                In over two decades, I have trained 20,000 people through the college classroom, community seminars, one-on-one opportunities, and through the written page.  I have come to a place of now knowing what brings lasting customer service.  I call it “pay it forward” customer service.

                This relationship with people is based on only two points: remembering you will die and extending the grace you have been given in your life.  These two points are human relationship focused, not a lot of techniques in them.  Just two simple principles to remember and practice.  Let me explain both because while they seem ridiculous and maybe too naïve, they require courage and a way of being and becoming that demands our best efforts.

                Remembering you will die.  Why this as a principle, you might wonder?  Remembering we will die keeps us from forgetting that most of what we get upset about in life doesn’t matter.  There are some things that are really important like family, friends, faith, justice and other matters, but most of what we experience day-by-day will have no value in the scope of eternity.  By remembering to focus on the big stuff and letting the trivial go helps us to live a bit more peacefully and with evenness.  If we can remember the little inconveniences of life will not matter tomorrow (and help others keep all things in perspective, too) we may find places of connection with people that are not technique driven.  Through keeping a proper perspective about issues of life, we can focus on the relationships and not the quirks of broken tools, seams that come undone on a blouse, food that is under or over prepared, a billing that isn’t quite right, and a thousand more inconveniences which often frustrate our lives.  Knowing we will die keeps perspective—what matters and what will be forgotten in a few hours or days.

                Extending grace to others just as you have received grace.  ALL of us—EVERY ONE–has received grace, unmerited kindness or favor, at a point in our lives.   Maybe someone said, “Oh, that’s okay…we will let it slide.”  Or, “that’s okay, we all have bad days.”  Or maybe, “that’s alright; it can happen to anyone.”  We have ALL been given grace at some moment in our lives for an act that was less than stellar.  If we remember this experience and feeling as we engage others, we can make current circumstances potentially better in how we relate to people.  If we could simply recall our own attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors at the time of encountering another person with a “poor attitude” and the grace that might have been extended to us in similar situations, then we might actually make a happenstance better—paying the grace we received forward to the person standing in front of us.

                Customer service is ultimately about relationships.  It is about building solid relationships with people that brings ongoing connection to our organizations and companies over time.  Customer service based solely on technique or campaigns will only work until another technique or campaign becomes more appealing to the client from another enterprise.  Relationships built on perspective and grace, however, can last a lifetime and weather the most unnerving of situations.

                Serving people doesn’t have to be all that hard.  We just make it hard because we forget to keep it all in perspective and we withhold the grace given us from another person.  Pay it forward customer service is about being human, filled with graciousness, and knowing that in the end, most of what actually frustrates us doesn’t matter in the scheme of the really critical life and world issues.

                Blessings, grace and peace to you—personally—as you try to become a person who is full of grace and one who keeps all of life in perspective.  You will be different, you can make the world around you different, and you can pay that forward to others, too, who will also be different in time.  A world based on proper perspective and grace….just consider the possibilities.

David Neidert

One by One, Count Them All

“It seems kind of surreal,” my wife remarked laying on the couch absorbed in her iPhone apps.  We were talking about a friend of mine who died a few days earlier of cancer.  I had commented to my wife that I was glad I went to visit him in the hospital only a few days before he passed away.  I’m not sure he was 70 years old yet; the loss of an energetic community leader.

                My wife’s statement was about my own cancer surgery in 2008.  While my wife thought it all felt surreal from the vantage of the beige couch, I responded, “I think about it almost every day.”

                Now, I don’t think about cancer in the gloom and doom kind of way.  That episode did not paralyze my life or destroy my attitude about the future.  Quite the opposite happened, really.  I think about cancer almost every day and it reminds me of how blessed I am; how thankful I am for the moments I get to experience and savor.

                I do feel blessed.  There is gratitude for my family.  They bring joy and enjoyment.  The telephone calls with my daughters and son add to each day.  Seeing my wife reminds me of commitments and that two people, so connected to each other, can weather much.  I also enjoy a good hug from my eldest grandson or just playing gently with the brown, curled locks of my youngest’s hair as he masters yet another video game (he is three by the way).

                My work—my life calling—brings intellectual, spiritual and emotional satisfaction Monday through Friday (and a number of evenings).  What I do in those 8 to 10 hours isn’t really work—like labor one would dread.  It is a path to legacy and service to others.  I give my best to this vocation because I am reminded that the service given to another through my efforts is a high calling for life and what one owes another human being.  Blessings come in unexpected ways daily because I am looking for them with those I encounter; but they also just appear from the most unexpected moments of bumping into another’s life story.

                If there is a downside to this gratefulness it would be twofold: I am less patient with people who don’t count their daily blessings (because they are bountiful in this country) and I have a more even temperament about a lot of things that riled me before my cancer diagnosis and surgery.  I do get angry and frustrated about issues and stuff (I am human) but I have started to see that most things “will be okay.”  That may be taken as non emotional, a lack of engagement, or not caring about items which make up our everyday existence; but that would be a false assumption.  I do care, I am engaged, but in the end “it will be okay.”

                And the impatience?  Well, many people (in my opinion) make the trivial so life important or earth shattering.  I have little patience for this kind of response these days because people have lost perspective by deceiving themselves into believing they will live forever.  A reality check everyone—you and I are going to die.  My advice: keep all things in their proper perspective and place of importance in your life.

                “Count your blessings, name them one by one,” is a song I learned early in attending church.  I count them every morning and throughout the day.  The ten-inch long scar I see every morning when I look at my naked torso in the mirror reminds me how blessed I am for good healthcare, family, friends, faith and all I experience in 24 hours.

                Take a moment right now—or at least sometime today—to reflect on your life and its blessings.  Put it all in its proper perspective.  Count your blessings one by one.  That simple act will keep you centered on what matters in the world and in your life, whatever amount of it you get to enjoy.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert