ServiceExperts™: With Apologies, From Service Professionals…

Service Professional

ServiceExperts™ is a series of contributing articles from recognized industry professionals offering their thoughts, viewpoints and opinions on the latest trends impacting the service industry. Roy Dockery currently serves as the VP of Field Operations at Flock Safety, leading the organization through hyper growth expansion while building a resilient culture, process efficiencies and service excellence. Previously, he served as the VP of Customer Care for Swisslog Healthcare North America. Roy serves on Service Council’s Industry Practitioners Advisory Board and is also a leadership coach and podcaster on the Savage Truth Network. 

In many conversations with colleagues, peers and friends, most of us face a challenge in our personal lives as service professionals.  The nature of our job is to walk into situations often outside of our control, internalize the frustration and occasional abuse, to deliver the customer a solution.  We live in constant disaster preparedness mode, willing and capable of taking a phone call from an angry customer at any hour of the day and pull actionable information from the conversation to work towards a solution.  We are applauded for restoring confidence, strengthening relationships, and increasing customer loyalty, but how does it impact our personal lives?

Work/life balance is discussed across every industry, with enough theories and methods to keep you reading for a lifetime.  As someone who has been in service since my first job at the age of 16, and as a coach of service leaders, I have seen the tangible and intangible negatives of our lifestyle.  To help communicate to those who have to deal with our behaviors outside of work, I wanted to articulate what I have found to be true in my own life, with the hopes that it may help you in yours.

First, I want to start off by saying that I am sorry.  Living with a service professional is hard enough with travel away from home, late workdays, email disruptions, and phone calls that cut into family time.  When things break, someone must fix them for organizations to continue to function, and we sign up for that responsibility.  When interviewing candidates, I often tell them that field service is a lifestyle, not just a career, so your family and friends will live it with you.

To be successful in service you have to become a master of the uncontrollable and uncomfortable.  Random issues, escalations, product failures, software crashes, shipping delays, and user errors are all a normal part of the day.  But we all seek to have control over some aspect of our lives and our day, so when 8-12 hours are out of our control, and 5-8 hours are required for sleep, the time in between is what we try to control in order to maintain our sanity.  Spending time with family, exercise, recreation, and personal health are all managed in the windows between putting out fires.

For those that must deal with us in those 6-8 hours of weekdays, weekends and vacations, you get to experience people clinging to the last hope of control and often offering less grace and patience than we likely ought to.

  • We spend our days apologizing for things we did not do, making us less likely to apologize for things that we did do, especially when unintentional.
  • We have to exercise immense amounts of patience while being yelled at by frustrated customers, making us less likely to offer patience in situations we expect to have control over, especially in our home.
  • We often travel alone, not having to accommodate the desires and preferences of others, so we can be horrible to take a vacation with.
  • We don’t prioritize our personal health, often leading to medical issues that become financial, emotional and spiritual burdens on our families.
  • We can become unstable and irritable when the things we attempt to control have a poor outcome.

I don’t want to paint a picture of gloom and negativity because this may not be the case for many.  However, over the years I have found myself in all these circumstances and often more than one at a time.

Being service minded has its benefits because we are solutions oriented and driven to solve problems.  Honey-Do lists are completed with a sense of pride, while mechanical failures and functioning technology are rarely an issue in the home of the service professional. Recognition of the fact that we seek to control our personal life is the first step to helping us live with some resemblance of balance with others.

I can’t provide a magic solution, prayer, routine or daily mantra that will help us avoid the negatives addressed above.  However, I have found one perspective that helps me address the way I respond to and look at my family.  It’s simple, yet so complicated: “Who is my #1 Customer?”

Service minds are wired a bit different in my opinion, so to trick the brain, I constantly remind myself that my family is my #1 Customer.  They have the largest credit line, have contributed the most revenue, have the most elaborate service level agreement, excessive downtime penalties, a 99.9999999% up time guarantee, and they are local, so our service reputation is on the line.  As businesses, we bend over backwards for our flagship accounts, so as a service professional I recommend that you look at each member of your household as a flagship account.

They get to make more mistakes than your average customer, they never pay full price, you are fully invested in their success, you often train them for free, and when they have a fire you will pull resources from the grave to get them back into operation.  Treating your family like your #1 Customer won’t give them all your attention every day.  You will still miss events and disappoint. But if they go down, they will see you move heaven and earth to get them back up.  Every occupation or career has its positives and negatives, and my 19 years of experience are all in service.  As a husband for 12 years and father of three I have offered less than my #1 Customers deserve, but every new day is an opportunity to delivery on my promises.

Who is my #1 Customer?  Those who chose to love and tolerate me despite my crazy service ways.

Tags: customer, Field Service, flock safety, service professionals
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