Compassion isn’t something that just happens. The idea behind it is that you “come to passion” – you actively and deliberately engage in it.
You Cannot Come To Passion By Being Indifferent
I hated working in call centers.
I realize that “hate” is a strong word.
That’s why I used it.
I spent the better part of ten years working as a call center agent, starting first in a low-pay outsource center that provided customer support for various regional internet service providers in Northern New York. After that, I worked five years as a customer service agent for a large computer company in Nashville. Before my run in call centers was over, I spent a couple years at a company that developed healthcare software for large hospitals.
I loathed going into work. My personality type just wasn’t built for this. I didn’t like being tied to a chair all day, with scheduled breaks and very specific metrics to meet (oftentimes those metrics would tend to contradict each other). I couldn’t do enough to make my managers happy. Some mornings (many mornings, actually) I would walk in to see calls already in queue, meaning I was probably going to be in for a long day, taking call after call with no time to breathe in between.
I have a lot of respect for people who can handle this type of work but, as a creative person this was soul-sucking. I would come home with a cloud over my head, and I would spend Sundays stressed over the knowledge that I’d be going back in the next day.
What made the experience particularly difficult was that I couldn’t be me. I’m an outgoing person that likes to entertain and interact. I couldn’t do that with a phone stuck on my face all day. Over time, it made me bitter and resentful.
It also made me very indifferent toward my customers. Indifference implies laziness, or perhaps a lack of action.
Indifference also suggests a lack of Compassion. In retrospect, this indifference I had toward my customers might be the thing I hated the most about my job, because caring about people – being Compassionate – has always been very important to me.
If You Don’t Come To Passion, You Lack Empathy
One of the biggest tenets of providing customer service is that you need to have empathy for the people who come to you for help. This isn’t just because “showing you care” looks good to your customer and, thus, builds a stronger bond between the company who employs you and the people who give it their hard-earned money. It’s also because the issue the customer has come to you with isn’t the real reason they’re calling.
“My computer won’t turn on.”
“My printer is spewing out random symbols and characters.”
“I lost a Word document. How do I get it back?”
“My computer has no power.”
On the surface, it would seem as though these are the things that the customers are calling in about. From a troubleshooting perspective, these are exactly the problems I would need to solve.
And solve them, I would. The disdain I had for my occupation had little-to-no effect on this aspect of my duties.
But solving those technical issues and sending people on their way isn’t customer service. And these things aren’t the real reason the customer has called.
As a result of his computer not turning on, customer 1 can’t attend a very important, live, virtual class. If he doesn’t attend this class, he could find himself in some real academic trouble.
Because that printer is spewing random symbols and characters, customer 2 can’t print shipping labels for orders she has received. She guaranteed swift shipping times and could lose money if she can’t meet them.
Customer 3’s lost Word document is actually a big presentation that he has to present to the board – something he’s been working on for weeks! Without it, he could lose the opportunity for that big promotion.
Though customer 4’s issue appears to be the same as the first customer’s, it’s not. Sure, her computer won’t turn on, but she’s concerned that she won’t finish that video edit in time.
That’s the importance of empathy – or Compassion – when it comes to customer service. The real problem isn’t the technical failure of the caller’s device – it’s the inconvenience that technical failure causes in their day. It’s the job of the customer service agent to be aware of this inconvenience.
More than that – it’s the job of a customer service agent to do something about it – to act on it.
But I didn’t.
How You Come To Passion
It wasn’t the fault of any of my callers that I didn’t like my job. Hell, it wouldn’t have mattered to them if they knew I felt that way. They may have seemed like a number to me, but I certainly wasn’t one to them – I was the person who was going to solve their issue.
But I didn’t make them feel important, or like they had my undivided attention. I also didn’t make them feel as though it mattered to me that their day (or more) was in jeopardy.
That’s because I genuinely didn’t do anything.
Because of my indifference, I showed no empathy – no Compassion. I simply resolved their technical issue and moved along.
The truth is, I let how much I hated my job get in the way of not only what I was supposed to do but the person I saw myself as being. I essentially let it immobilize me.
What I should have done was put more effort into it. I should have worked harder and shaken off the indifference and immobilization. I wasn’t going to show empathy, or be Compassionate toward my customers, by doing nothing.
That’s because Compassion requires action. It isn’t something that just happens. Nor is it something that you accidentally fall into. The idea behind Compassion is that you “come to passion” – you actively and deliberately engage in it. Person to person.
What Happens When You Come To Passion
When you “come to passion”, when you take that action, everything changes.
You come to understand a little better why your friend got so angry when you made that joke last night.
You come to realize why your cousin has a completely different political view from your own.
And if you truly make the effort, you come to see the real problem underneath the surface.
There’s a reason it’s not called “staypassion” or “waitpassion” or “doabsolutelynothingpassion”. It’s called Compassion – “come to passion” – because it requires you to do the work of moving yourself into it.
It’s also – very clearly – an implied invitation.
Solving real problems requires real work. It requires an intense effort to be Compassionate – not to whole groups of people, but to one person at a time. Because – like the customer examples above – though it would be easy to assume that similar-looking issues, problems, or ways of thinking might be the same, taken one at a time they very rarely are.
The only way to know – the only way to solve real problems – is to make an effort.
You will also understand what it means to Compromise – or “come to promise”.
Share Your Story
When have there been times that you know you should have made more of an effort to “come to passion”? Where could you put that effort in today? Share your story!