I read three more books on customer service over the past week, and still no material on how customer service benefits the providers. Beginning to think that I may just have to make stuff up.
One approach I want to take, although I suspect it's overreaching, is to link customer service to happiness. It's not much of a stretch to say that service to a higher cause - a religion, a movement, an ideal - does promote happiness, because it does provide meaning to people's lives. But customer service?
Since I don't have much credibility to lose, having expressed my belief that we can use customer service to make the world a better place, I may as well carry on.
So what is happiness? Tired of reading, I downloaded a broadcast on the subject of Joy, from Radio National's All In The Mind. Some excerpts:
Happiness is fundamental
Dr Lea Williams, Brain Dynamics Centre, Westmead Hospital: The key thing that is driving human survival is that we need to try and minimise harm. And once that’s sorted out, hopefully find some pleasure in life. That’s a fundamental goal driving everyone. All of the decisions we make and even our long term goals are to some extent driven by that sense of minimising the negative experiences and maximising the positive.
Happiness & aging
Williams: The prefrontal brain, which regulates negative emotion, actually becomes better able to do that with older age and, in a sense, takes the brakes off the positive emotions. The shift goes from less experience of negative emotion and more ability to experience positive. As you age you bring your life experience to the way that your brain regulates your emotions, and become better at being more selective about the perhaps social experiences you have and so on, and are able to manage the negative emotion better, so that you have a more quality experience.
Sue Turk Charles, School of Social Ecology, University of Southern California: Older people have changed their priorities in life and their values and they focus more on the emotional value of the world. And as their perceptions of life change and how they really realise they are not going to live forever and they savour the moment. That they’re able to as we say, pick their battles, and are able to let go of what’s negative. Because frankly they don’t feel like they have time to do it and so why hold onto that.
Happiness & gender
Charles: The gender differences are smaller than the age differences. They do vary a little across the lifespan but the general pattern is that females tend to have more persistent responses to the negative emotions and males tend to have more transient responses. So males get over them more quickly, but females have a better ability to regulate them, so in a sense whilst they have these more persistent responses, they do seem to have a better ability to manage them.
Happiness & health
Charles: It is amazing how our perceptions form our wellbeing. It’s incredible the power over mind, and it is absolutely ‘how we perceive our stress’ - how we appraise the situation is very important and when we control for all those objective stressors, we find that the way people appraise the situation does play a powerful role in their health. Research on people injected with the flu virus found that people who developed the virus are people who report less social support and more inter-personal problems in their lives. The social support has a strong effect on their antibodies and their immune system. Wound healing – people who are under a lot of stress take longer to heal.
Happiness at work
Dr Charmin Hartel, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Monash University: Emotions can be contagious, so you can be in a group and if the group is generally positive, enthusiastic, those emotions can be contagious. And if it’s a fairly cynical group that too can be contagious. Organisations are big social systems - they can create environments that facilitate and help people to increase their wellbeing or, they can decrease it. This, in turn, spreads back out into society.
Positive disobedience. There’s an old saying that if you took three people and you put them in a room and two of them were positive and one of them was negative, they’d all come out depressed. It’s a lot easier for the emotional tone of a place to go negative than it is for it to go in a positive way or create a positive environment. And similarly in organisations the norms in a place that are created are not always healthy or positive, and if we recognise that, then we understand that sometimes to disobey the norms, to challenge the norms is an extremely important thing that we require of people, not just in our organisations, but in our societies.
Hear the broadcast: The Emotional Brain: Part 4, Joy
Warning: It's in Australian, not English