It’s the Small Things

When I was a freshman in college, my parents decided to be puppy raisers for a program called Canine Companions for Independence.  CCI is a non-profit organization that depends on volunteers to raise puppies, train them in basic commands, socialize them, and then at 18 months of age, take them to the regional obedience school.  My parents first puppy, Verity, failed the program.  My parents were saddened at first because these dogs go on to help the disabled, they work in hospitals, they can be placed with veterans, and use for various other reasons. What amazes me, is that my parents went on to raise 3 more puppies.  They chose to see Verity’s failure (she got startled too easily with loud noises), as a positive, and that she was always meant to stay with them.  Another puppy did not pass the program, another, Olympia, was placed with a deaf woman, and the last, Tippen, was placed within the courts to be used as a therapy dog for victims of violence.

What my parents saw as a small service to provide, because they certainly were not paid for raising these four puppies, it taught me one of life’s biggest lessons: there is a greater purpose in everything that we do.

The concept of the butterfly effect is that small causes have larger effects.  Whether we’re raising puppies to help someone in need, or answering calls to help someone whose shower won’t drain, what we do matters in more ways that what we initially think.  My parents were doing far more than raising puppies; they were teaching me a lesson in perseverance!

Customer service used to be an art.  In the Victorian Era, right around the turn of the century when department stores were being introduced to the public, it was a big deal to work for this kind of organization.  Imagine walking in and seeing sales representatives in posh uniforms, the plush carpets, gleaming glass cases, and products displayed beautifully in all their glamour.  The first department stores introduced the public to what we would now consider mainstream customer service.  Customer service was meant to be an experience that enthralled all of a consumer’s senses.   

As businesses across the world utilize automation, we have lost the art of customer service.  The small details that used to contribute and enhance a customer’s experience are falling by the wayside.  We have forgotten that it’s the small things we do that often make the biggest difference.

As a mother, my children have the power to bring me to my knees.  Sometimes in exasperation, sometimes to wipe away tears or kiss a boo-boo, but more often they bring me to my knees in humility.  My little six-year old wrote me a letter with misspelled words, and crooked handwriting: “Mama I love you becus you are nice.  And becus you say yes.”

I teach the YES principle found in the Pattern for Excellence on a daily basis, and by saying “yes” to my children, what I often found to be the small and unimportant things, turned out to mean the world to my little six-year old.  Your customer service representatives need to recognize the importance of saying “yes.”  Encourage them to find creative ways to infuse their conversations with positivity and problem-solving.  Saying yes, in all its variations, is one of the small things that can have a large impact for your customers.

Sometimes folks, it’s the small things. Your customer service representatives matter—a lot.  What they DO matters, regardless of how great or small they may perceive their assistance to be to someone in need.  Indeed, small causes create large and grand effects.  Find the greater purpose and joy and fulfillment will be your reward.


Robin White, CSR Coach

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