In an early 2017 episode of How I Built This, Tony Heish, CEO of Zappos, described his company as such,
[Zappos] is a service company that just happens to sell shoes.
Zappos is seen as revolutionary in their commitment to customer service, an approach that Tony describes as somewhat nonsensical at times — doing things for their customers that their competition would never do. Their main goal is to make the customer happy at all costs. And it pays off; Zappos brings in an estimated $2 billion in revenue each year, and was acquired by Amazon in 2009.
What stands out most to me when reflecting on Zappos’s story is that, in an age of paying customers being dragged off of airplanes, the idea of offering genuine service is foreign to most of us. This only serves to reinforce a belief I’ve developed over the past few years:
We achieve higher career satisfaction, build better companies, and attract happier customers by adopting a servant mindset towards our work.
Your Career is an Act of Service
When we talk about our careers, what do we envision? A successful career perhaps looks like a long string of big promotions, big accomplishments, and an impressive resume. Too often, we believe that our career is about us. But I want to challenge this definition of a career.
I define a career as: an extended period of dedicated service to a cause or organization.
It’s why we used phrases like, “serve as President”, “serve in the military”, “serve on a board of directors”. Achieving these positions isn’t an opportunity to dictate or wield unchecked power; it’s a call to greater service.
As our career develops, so too do our skills and talents that brought us into that career. But what are those skills and talents really for? We use our skills to make the world around us better; we use them to serve our team, our company, and our customers.
To be truly effective in our work and build a great career, we must be willing to serve others and put their needs before our own.
How to Practice a Service Mindset
If we want to practice a servant mindset, there are 3 approaches we must take:
1. Drop the ego
Ego will bring you down, as well as your organization. We have to be able to admit mistakes and be vulnerable with each other.
True service doesn’t have an ego; we can’t assume we’re above an act of service.
2. Have an open mind
With a closed mind, we become selective about who we serve. We might withhold our service towards others who don’t share our viewpoints or position in life.
3. Avoid busyness.
I’m sorry, I can’t help you, I’m too busy.
Oftentimes, busyness is for us. We have to be careful not to hide behind busyness that could prevent us from taking a moment to help someone.
When someone comes up to your desk, take off the headphones, give them your attention. Simply giving people your time can be a major act of service.
Service Culture Attracts Happy Customers
If we adopt this servant approach to our work and put others’ needs before our own, what does it do for our business? It breeds a culture of service. It creates an environment where, because we first served each other, we’re better able to provide great service outside of our business. And by providing great service, we attract happy customers.
Who doesn’t love to be well-served by a company or a product, to feel like your needs and wants were truly met and exceeded? It’s an instinctive craving. It’s why companies are investing millions in products that mimic the experience of having a person right there in your home, serving your every need (and why those products are so popular).
There’s no better customer experience than another human asking you, how can I help you?
A Call to Service
As you walk into work tomorrow morning, commit to serving your team and your customers. With every interaction, ask yourself, how can I help this person? When you treat your work as an act of service, it attracts loyal customers, it creates a great work culture, and it gives life to your career.