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Service Integrity

Filed under In The News, Service Culture

In 2007, Steven D. Levitt, author of the New York Times blog Freakonomics wrote the following about customer service:

“There are not many strong incentives for individuals to provide great customer service. There may be small financial rewards that accrue if customers routinely tell an employee’s supervisor what a great job they did; but if someone owns the business, the rewards are greater because positive word of mouth will generate new customers. Not surprisingly, many reports of great customer service…are associated with small business owners….For most employees, the only real benefit of great service is the good feeling that comes with making another person happy and the pride of doing a job well.”

While I agree that financial incentives and the “good feelings” and pride that you get from positively impacting someone’s life are definitely motivating factors, I also believe that there’s something that Levitt left out. And that thing is basic integrity. Merriam-Webster defines integrity as a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” If we have chosen a position that allows us the opportunity to provide service to others, then I believe it is especially important to adhere to a code of values. These values can be informed by our religious traditions or from other sources.

Religions around the world have their equivalent of the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Christianity has the story of the Good Samaritan. Islam professes “that which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.” And in Buddhism, the eight-fold path advises us to perform everything we do with “right effort.” For those who aren’t religious, secular humanists also encourage us to treat others with empathy, and to help prevent others from suffering.

Personally, I have taken the Golden Rule and adapted it according to what I believe about service. Rather than “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” I operate by the code “do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” While we have a lot in common, people have different desires for service; we all have different needs. This concept is central to my service code.

Having a code to follow prevents us from spiraling into a nihilistic abyss. Without it we have no reason to be kind, no reason to seek to be good to one another.

In my seminars and workshops, I work with corporate and business clients to develop Service Culture Vision statements. By consciously creating a code of values with one another, service personnel can agree on what Merriam-Webster calls “integrity.” We then become motivated to provide excellent service based on our core values rather than on financial or emotional rewards. We are taking true ownership of our lives as we are inspired from within, rather than from external sources.

How have you acted with integrity when serving others? What advice do you have for those who have grown weary in their service positions?

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