Customer service and the Golden Rule

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I am a customer service fanatic. In my previous job as a management consultant, part of my responsibilities included working with organizations to improve their relationships with customers. As a result of this focus, I was always measuring and grading the kind of treatment I received as a consumer.

Consequently, I found myself becoming a bit snobby with those in the work world. If I didn't get the kind of service I believed I was entitled to, I was quick to complain. Even if I didn't say anything to the person waiting on me or to his or her supervisor, I often mentally grumbled, smugly feeling that I would never treat customers that way.

However, I was not entirely satisfied with this arrogant viewpoint. Even though I felt justified for considering poor treatment inexcusable, I knew that this outlook of superiority was inconsistent with the Golden Rule. This rule, which states, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," was the very model I used to teach my clients good customer service skills.

A major component of religions worldwide, this simple teaching is also found in the Bible. It's part of the Sermon on the Mount, an instructional collection of sayings given by Christ Jesus (see Matthew, chapters 5-7). This profound principle of goodwill requires an element of self-examination, consistent with Christian theology.

I realized that while expecting good treatment was in keeping with the Golden Rule, looking for mistakes and constantly responding with complaints was not. This didn't mean it was wrong to note and report truly poor service. Employers do need to know if their employees are misperforming. What it did mean was that I needed to ask myself how I would want to be treated in similar situations.

At other times when I was striving to improve my own or others' behavior, I had found helpful solutions through prayer. I began by reasoning that the identity of each individual - whether he or she was serving or being served - was created and governed by God as explained in the Bible. God didn't create any of His children to be incompetent or rude. Every transaction in His kingdom had to be helpful and kind because such behavior was in keeping with God's nature, which I knew to be good.

While I was praying along these lines, a story from the Bible came to my attention. In it, a successful and proud Syrian warrior called Naaman had leprosy. He was told that the prophet Elisha in Israel could heal him. Naaman gathered together his large entourage and went to visit Elisha. Upon Naaman's arrival, the prophet sent his messenger out to tell the warrior to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River. Disgusted with this treatment and expecting some kind of flashy miracle, Naaman stormed off.

One of his aides took him aside and suggested that if Elisha had asked him to do a big thing, he would have gladly done it. Why not do this little thing - bathe in the Jordan - and be clean?

Naaman humbly returned to the river and dipped himself seven times as directed. The Bible then reports, "His flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child" (see II Kings, chapter 5).

I laughed as I realized that Naaman certainly expected a different kind of customer service than he received. He believed that someone of his rank and experience should be treated with more deference, even awe. However, Naaman did obtain exactly what he came for - a healing of leprosy - when he humbly obeyed Elisha's instructions.

This Bible story helped me recognize my own need for humility in dealing with service providers. I began to think of them as my customers, giving me an opportunity to use my good customer service skills on them. In addition, I strove to be more grateful when I actually received what I wanted, even if the service wasn't what I'd anticipated.

These lessons have been most valuable. As a result, I have found many people eager to do a good job, and I'm now much better at treating them the way I would like be treated.

All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,
do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12

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