Oh, they're just not cut out for a service job... You've heard someone describe someone else like that haven't you? It's what we say about someone who comes off grouchy, or unpleasant, particularly in a role dealing with customers. Maybe its a phrase like: some people have it, and some don't... or the way hiring managers word it: we hire for customer service talent. The gist of phrases like like these is that customer service is a skill some people have and other's are incapable of.

I've been mentally wrestling with that question myself. I'll take it a step further. I believe the root of customer service is a combination of empathy and ability to act on empathetic feelings. I often wonde if some people are empathetic and others aren't. Why is one nurse willing to go the extra mile and other thinks the call bell is a bother? You know the old joke about restaurants? This would be a great place to work if it weren't for the customers. Not exactly an empathetic feeling is it?

But, some people really seem to feel that way, like customers are actually an annoyance. So, are they born that way, or is there more to it?

I had a great, inspring conversation this week with someone knows a lot more about this stuff than I do. She turned me on to a video from RSA Animate - The Empathic Civilisation. It's a visually compelling look at a researcher's thoughts about empathy.

The narrator suggests we are, in fact, all born with a biological wiring towards empathy. He goes on to say empathy is what makes us special and may even be what will save civilization as we know it. I know, right? Big stuff!

I'm inclined to agree. And, if we're all hardwired for empathy, what does that say about those people we label as grouches? Maybe it has more to the with organizational culture - that's the second half of my equation: the ability to act on empathetic feelings.

Organizations, leaders and culture have to empower employees to act on their empathetic feelings towards others. The have to make room for customer service to happen. When we try to script or pigeonhole people's service presentation, it's no wonder some people react with negative attitude.


RSA Animate - The Empathic Civilisation - YouTube.