Service is Defined by Feelings

© Holly Stiel

When it comes down to it, service is a feeling — how someone feels about doing business with you.

British Airways devoted an entire ad campaign to this premise. A full-page ad in The New York Times listed quotes from satisfied customers, and, at the bottom in italics, was the statement: “It’s the way we make you feel that makes us the world’s favorite airline.”

It stands to reason, then, that paying attention to the feelings involved in providing a good service experience — the customers’ feelings and yours — makes a great deal of sense.

Many companies put people out on the floor or the phone and tell them to smile and “be nice” to the customers. But, they don’t acknowledge that smiling and being nice may not be the natural reaction to a nasty customer.

Anyone who took a Psychology 101 course knows that the natural human reaction to confrontation is fight or flight. In a customer service situation, neither of those is an option. Therefore, people must learn to “flow” when fleeing and fighting aren’t likely choices.

Service is produced and created by people, and people are filled with emotions. It is not just the customer who wants to feel good in a service interaction — you do, too. But, the reality is that there is no sign above the entrance telling customers how to behave. And sometimes, they behave badly. So, the responsibility for appropriate behavior falls on the service provider.

“The customer hurt my feelings” really means “I let that customer hurt my feelings.” It can be difficult to separate the impersonal from the personal, but being able to know the difference and balance the two is what separates great service from average service.

Most people truly want to feel good and help other people, but somewhere along the way they lose that innate desire and begin to “survive” their jobs. Perhaps it happens because customers treat them rudely or management takes them for granted. Whatever the reasons, the sad truth is that we have lost the value of the human connection. To get that service feeling back, you need to realize that, even if you are dealing with a customer for just a few minutes, you are establishing a relationship. Providing good service and experiencing the joy that is the reward of that service takes patience and perseverance. It is easy to find fault and complain, but good service never judges.