Over the years many things have been suggested to be “better than
sex”. I recall (fondly) a certain dessert called “better than sex cake”
I was introduced to almost 20 years ago. And I’ve heard sky diving,
mountain climbing and other extreme sports are often subjects of this
But I’ve never heard anyone suggest that offering good customer service is better than sex. (I guess we know why.)
Yet there are studies that suggest the good feeling we get from
helping others is not too different from what we feel when we do highly
pleasurable things. At least, that’s how our brains feel about it.
This article (from MSN)
relates several examples of research where people who helped others
experienced a specific neuro-chemical reaction associated with
pleasure. For example, Carolyn Schwartz, a research professor at the
University of Massachusetts Medical School found people who volunteered
to help MS patients experienced dramatic improvements in their quality of life”everal times more so than those they were helping.
The article also cites a study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Science:
“participants’ brains were monitored by MRI scans while they
made decisions about donating part of their research payment to
charitable organizations. When participants chose to donate money, the
brain’s mesolimbic system was activated, the same part of the brain
that’s activated in response to monetary rewards, sex, and other
Recently I mentioned this to a friend who is a doctor. He agreed and
said there is a physiological basis for this. (Then he said several big
words that were well beyond my vocabulary.)
I doubt any of us would be surprised about this. Most of us know
from experience helping others feels good. And it makes sense. We
humans are equipped with relatively few physical tools to survive. We
are heavily dependent on each other in all aspects of our lives. We are
designed as social creatures. So, helping others is what enables our
species to survive and thrive.
Since customer service is all about helping people, this is important.
In our quest to provide better customer service, we often focus on
how to motivate employees. We look for ways to get employees to
deliver better service consistently. Teach them better skills. Monitor
their phone calls. Observe them with secret shoppers. Reward them for
providing good service. Punish them when they don’t.
Yet the challenge continues. Customer service in many companies is still well below where customers want it to be.
Maybe the answer lies in brain science. Perhaps we need to tap into
people’s natural desire to help others. Here are three suggestions:
1. Create a culture of service.
Do this by making service a priority starting at the top. Management
at all levels needs to affirm that service is a key value in the
organization. This needs to be done in words and in actions.
2. Make it personal.
Do this by putting yourself in your customers shoes. Try to
understand their perspective. If you were them, how would you want to
be treated. If all else fails, pretend the customer is someone you care
deeply about like a parent, spouse or child.
3. Connect with your customers.