Customer Service and the Imitation of Christ - Ron Johnson (Podcast Episode 32)

Interacting with customers and clients can be stressful. If you're one of the over five million customer service representatives working around the world today, you know what it's like: customers take their frustration out on you, they ask for special treatment, and they fail to understand why your hands are tied when the request goes against company policy. Even if you're not a frontline CSR, you likely experience similar stress dealing with co-workers, bosses, or clients. Our guest today will show us how an active relationship with God can get you through the workday fulfilling your calling to serve others in Christ's name. Ron Johnson has worked in customer service call centers for over a decade, both as a frontline customer service representative and as a manager, and he is author of the book Customer Service and the Imitation of Christ.

Scripture References

Mark 1:40-45
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. (NIV)

Leviticus 13:45-46
“Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (NIV)

Matthew 6:24
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (NIV)

Matthew 5:21-22
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 14:1
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. (NIV)

Additional Resources Referenced

Customer Service and the Imitation of Christ, by Ronald Johnson

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​​Leah Archibald: Making It Work is brought to you by The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Theology of Work Project.

Mark Roberts: Welcome to Making it Work.

LA: Through conversation, scripture and stories, we invite God into work’s biggest challenges... so that you can live out your purpose in the workplace.

MR: I’m Mark Roberts.

LA: And I’m Leah Archibald. And this is Making It Work.

Interacting with customers and clients can be stressful, if you're one of the over five million customer service representatives working around the world today, you know what it's like: customers take their frustration out on you, they ask for special treatment, and they fail to understand why your hands are tied when the request goes against company policy. Even if you're not a frontline CSR, you likely experience similar stress dealing with co-workers, bosses, or clients. Our guest today will show us how an active relationship with God can get you through the workday fulfilling your calling to serve others in Christ's name. Ron Johnson has worked in customer service call centers for over a decade, both as a frontline customer service representative and as a manager, and he is author of the book Customer Service and the Imitation of Christ. Ron Johnson, welcome to the Making It Work podcast.

Ron Johnson: Thank you, Leah, it's great to be here.

LA: It's so great to have you. So I wonder if you could give us an idea of the typical stressors you face when you're dealing with customers.

RJ: Well, when you're in a customer service call center, it depends partly on what type of company you work for, what kinds of questions people are calling about, but for me, working for a bank, I can talk to sometimes 90-100 people a day. So the first thing that really hits you is the sheer numbers.

LA: That's more people than I know.

RJ: Right. Right. Right. And it's, yeah, it's, the sheer numbers of it, just is the first thing that hit me when I started doing this job is just after a day of talking to that many people, it's all a blur, and you really get to the point where you don't even remember sometimes what the very last call was that you were on. And yet then when you will speak to someone and they'll say, "But I talked with you earlier this week, don't you remember me?" And the funny thing is...

LA: I'm Jenny, don't you remember me?

RJ: Right. So that's, I think that's, was the main thing that really hit me at first was just the fact that I'm not used to interacting with people so fast and so furious, and then even when you have a nice interaction with somebody, you can't take just a moment to smile about it because there's a little beep in your ear, and then the next person comes in and they may be yelling at you. A lot of them do, a lot of them are angry. And then you immediately have to fight all these defense mechanisms, you want to find ways to either transfer them to somebody else or give a quick answer and get them off your phone. What I find, I think is the most challenging thing about this is the pacing of it, just the fact that there is this fast pace of people coming at you, you don't know what the next one's gonna be and so on, and yet at the same time, you also know that people are listening to you, you've got quality people within the company who are listening to recordings of these, and they're going to rate you on whether you forgot to say this or didn't say that quite right.

And then at the same time, you've got your team leaders looking at your statistics to see if you're answering the calls quickly enough, because they want you to be under... It's usually under about five minutes, at least in my experience, they'll have it out in seconds, like 300 and some seconds, but the overall effect is that you really don't feel like you're interacting as a human being with other human beings, what you feel is that you are on all the time, that you are, in a sense, performing, and you're performing for audiences that are just flashing by one after another and interacting with you and it's really unlike anything I'd ever done before I went into this business.

MR: Wow.

LA: This sounds fantastically stressful.

MR: Yeah, my anxiety level is already up just listening.


LA: I'm ready to be like, "Thanks, we're done for today, that was enough interaction for..." And we should say that this is, for many people, this is their first experience of work, this is an entry level job, for many people in many parts of the country.

RJ: Right, yes. Many of the people that I've worked with.

LA: And around the world.

RJ: I have people that I work with who have done it for 30, 40 years, and I don't even know how that's possible, to be honest. My experience is that this is a job that is very hard on the soul, and that it is... It's not just psychologically hard, but it is hard on you as a spiritual person, it can be very difficult unless you can learn how to turn it into a spiritual practice like I've done but... It is something that people do get into right in the very beginning, and that, for me, was the irony of it, that I got into this from getting a PhD.

LA: But not in Customer Service, we should say.

RJ: No, that's right, yeah, my PhD was in the field of philosophy, the most theoretical kind of thing you could possibly be involved in, but I just wasn't able to get a full-time tenure-track teaching position, and my wife and I had just had our first, what turned out to be our first and only child, but I needed to get a job and I needed one right away. So that was, back then, just to what you were saying before Leah that many of the people who I work with are either straight out of high school, or working through college, or they started years ago, straight out of high school, and they've been stuck at it ever since.

LA: And you say it's hard on the soul, what do you mean by that?

RJ: Well, it's hard on the soul, first of all, because it is, like I just described, it's unnatural. I think part of what is good for the soul is interacting with other human beings in human ways, and to be able to laugh together, to talk together and so on, and to be yourself with other people, and as I've already described to some extent, when we're on the phones as a CSR, we are not only being listened to and being evaluated. But we're also scripted. Management has certain things that they want us to say in certain ways, and then we're evaluated by the extent to which we deviated from the script. An example of that is that I may, in certain cases, I may have done an excellent job of solving a problem that the customer was calling about, even to the point where they're effusive about it afterwards, it's like, "I didn't think it was gonna be this easy, thank you, thank you so much, and so on," and then I get marked down because I didn't say before I started helping them, "I will be glad to help you with that."

So the reason why I say it's hard on the soul, then, first of all, is just because it's unnatural, because it's scripted, it's all those kinds of things that make it very difficult for you to interact with these people on the phones, but I also believe, to a great extent, that if you're not careful in this business, you really do sell your soul, you're selling your soul because you are, you're renting out your total personality in a way that, I'm not really convinced that we do in other lines of business. We have something called, besides the recordings, we have something called screen capture, when our managers listen to the recording, they can also see a recording of the screens that we went into, so it's visual as well as oral, so they can see exactly which steps we took and so on, and they will even criticize that. "Why did you go to this screen? Why didn't you go into this other screen?"

The point of all this evaluation process is to turn us into exactly the kind of CSR machines that they want us to be, and, so that's why I say it's not good for the soul, if you let that process, if you accept it passively, then I believe that what you really are doing is selling your soul just for a meager paycheck.

LA: But you're gonna tell us how not to do that, I...

RJ: I am, I am.

LA: So I feel like you brought us to a cliffhanger, because I'm feeling pretty down, on this job of being a CSR, and I know that you've done it for many, many years, so tell us how you cannot sell out your soul in the work of a CSR?

RJ: The way that I learned to do that, Leah, was to make customer service a spiritual practice, specifically, the spiritual practice of the imitation of Christ. When I started out this job, the scripture that spoke to me most personally was first Chapter of Mark, verses 40 to 45, where Jesus is approached by a leper, and... It's typical for us. It's the expected thing. A leper comes up to Jesus, Jesus is going to heal him. That's a no-brainer. But what struck me about this passage was a couple of things, first of all, the leper approaches Jesus. And you have to think about this in a way that a CSR does, CSRs are trained to be procedural, and we think of everything in terms of procedures, and procedurally, this leper is doing everything wrong. He's coming up to Jesus and approaching him and the procedures in the Book of Leviticus, say, this is Leviticus, Chapter 13, says that if you are a leper, you're supposed to stay outside town, you're supposed to... If anybody does approach you, you're supposed to yell, "Unclean, unclean," so that they know not to come too close to you, because if they do, that they're going to be...

RJ: They're gonna be defiled by you. Well, this leper comes up to Jesus and approaches him, and then says, "I know that if you want to, you can help me." And I love... In the Greek, the word that's used here is, thelo, transliterated, that's T-H-E-L-O, and it means to want, or to desire, and a lot of translations kind of downplay that and they say, "If you will it," or, "If you choose," but when I realized in the Greek, what he was saying there...

LA: This is what the leper is saying to Jesus.

RJ: This is what the leper is saying is to Jesus, yeah, "If you want to, you can heal me." And then it's what happens next, Leah, that really struck me. Jesus steps forward, he doesn't have to step forward, he has healed people across town before just by the power of his word, but he steps forward and he touches the leper, and he says, "I want to." And when I read that, just after having been a CSR, I had read that many times before, but I read that with new eyes as a CSR, and I thought, this is what I wanna be. This is what I wanna do. I wanna be like Jesus. I don't wanna say, "Hey, as a one-time courtesy sure, I'll heal you." Jesus didn't say that, he said, "I want to." And you could tell in his voice that he was enthusiastic about it, you can just see, he wants to do it, and that was kind of a turning point for me when I was first in this job and I realized that's what I wanna be like. I wanna be like Jesus and I want to... I want to want to help people.

LA: Well, most of us don't... We think, "I wanna imitate Christ in my work, but I can't heal lepers, so this passage doesn't apply to me. This passage is just about how awesome Jesus was as the Son of God, not something that I could imitate." But, Ron, what you're saying here is, "I can do the piece of imitation where I'm stepping forward towards someone, who maybe I might wanna run away from. And maybe that person isn't a leper, 'cause I have nothing to help lepers with today, but maybe I can help someone who doesn't know how to log on to their online account, even though that is the most annoying thing that I could possibly imagine." So you do this inner action of stepping forward in the same way that Jesus did, you step forward towards the customer. And then what next? Give us some practicalities of how you make it a spiritual practice to do customer service, imitating Jesus.

RJ: Prayer for me is a vital part of this. I don't stop praying. And I guess taking you back to the beginning, imagine this guy who is perfectly happy standing up in front of a classroom full of students and talking about philosophy, and suddenly I'm put on this phone to talk to people about their bank accounts, and I don't even know what they're talking about. Half of the questions I don't even understand. So I'm terrified, and I'm all alone. You go through training, and after a certain amount of training, then they cut you loose, you're on your own. Except for the fact that they're recording you, then they're going to critique you later. You feel, or at least I did, extremely isolated. You're all by yourself on this phone, nobody else is with you. And so for me, it began with I pray not only before I work, but then I just kept praying while I was working. And in the book, I call this a three-way CSR conversation. We were trained... In the training, we were trained to do a certain kind of conversation with a customer. You don't just sit and listen to the conversation, but you take control of the call, meaning that you ask probing questions that are pertinent to exactly what you need to know in order to help the customer, and then you help the customer, and then you get them off the phone as quickly as you can so you can take the next call. I started experiencing a three-way CSR conversation, where they're saying something to me and I'm thinking to myself, "Lord, what are they talking about?" And then they're saying more, and then I'm thinking, "Okay, Lord, are they saying such and such?" So I'm constantly referring back to God to help me just to understand what the question is, and then I'll say, "I'll be glad to help you with that. Let me put you on hold for just two to three minutes while I look that up." And then I put them on hold and I say, "Okay, Lord, what are we gonna do here?" And so it really did become for me a three-way kind of conversation, as if I did have a mentor with me on the phone, because in my mind, in my heart, I did. So, as I continued then to do it that way, what I found was that God was constantly reminding me to have compassion instead of the natural reaction of just wanting to see how easily I could get this person off the phone.

LA: Did you get critique from your supervisor or the people who are listening to your conversations about pauses or times that you were ostensibly silent?

RJ: At the points where I really needed to pray about it, then I would say, "I need to place you on hold," where I really needed to have a conversation with God. But, Leah, you do get critiqued. Everybody does get critiqued. If you take just a moment, while you're talking to the customer and you're thinking about what they say, you get critiqued for what they call dead air, and that's not allowed. And to be very honest, as a customer, I certainly don't like dead air. If I'm calling and talking to a customer service representative, and they say nothing for several seconds, all of a sudden I will feel prompted to say, "Hi, are you still there?" Because dead air is not a good thing. But, yeah, when you're a CSR, then that is part of the difficulty of the job, you have to be careful. Even when you're looking up things, you have to be careful to keep the conversation going or to ask the customer to hold while you do that.

LA: Mark, I'm thinking of times in the Bible where people came to Jesus and wanted immediate results on their questions or their problems, and they got kind of a different answer.

MR: Yeah. Most of the time. [laughter] The Pharisees come to test Jesus, ask Him the question, and He asks them a question. Or they bring the woman caught in adultery and he's drawing in the dirt, which was the ultimate dead air, that's the best example I can think of. [chuckle] 'Cause literally you're just drawing in the dirt, which actually commentators have a great time trying to figure out what the heck he was doing. Was he writing words? We don't know, but he was buying time, he was creating dead air before he responded, which is just... It's fascinating. So, yeah, there is Jesus. But Jesus did not have a CSR manager listening in on His call, so He was able to do that. And so part of the challenge then when you work in that environment is to respect your manager, respect the company and its policies, and I know you would. And at the same time discover, "But how can I be the person that I need to be, authentic as not only myself but as a follower of Jesus," in the context of these parameters. As you said earlier, every job has some version of that. Right?

RJ: Right.

MR: And it's quite a challenge. And it sounds like sometimes you have chosen to take a risk and not to flat out violate company... The thing you're not doing, by the way, just saying, is you're not saying to the... Filling the dead air by saying, "Well, that's a really good problem you have, I'm gonna pray about it right now." Start praying out loud on the call, which I think would probably mostly not be appreciated. So, you're working at how to be authentically following Jesus in this job, and in a way that also is appropriate for the context and respectful to that.

LA: Now, Ron, you said one of the challenges is to not judge your customers, or that when you're talking to God, God is telling you to have compassion. Do you feel like that's one of the biggest temptations in this job, to write off your customers or to have a judgmental attitude to all people who are talking to you on the phone?

RJ: Yes. That I very quickly identified as one of the biggest challenges for any of us, because there's a certain "corps de esprit" that happens, a certain group solidarity, I guess, that begins to build within your team, where it's a... And it is a little bit of a them-versus-us mentality, we'll have team meetings and so on, but we'll also... In recent years, we started having Skype chats all day. So it builds a group rapport for your team, and we're usually... In our case, we're on a team of, let's say, a dozen or so people. And we just kind of help each other get through the day, and we get to know each other pretty well because there's some chatting, online chatting, going on between our calls throughout the day, interspersed throughout the day. And what I quickly found was that people just felt it was necessary to vent. And it could be about almost anything, but it tended to be grouped around certain kinds of things. And the number one thing that people wanted to vent about was, "You'll never believe what this customer just said to me, or just what they just asked." And it's always about “dumbest question you've ever heard” kind of thing. When you listen to the content of what they're venting about, the number one thing they're venting about is the stupidity of customers. And I, very early on, reflected on what Jesus said about that in Matthew Chapter 5. It sounds very severe on the face of it, "If you call your brother 'You fool,' then you are in danger of hell fire." And that sounds very stark, but I began to see it playing out for me every day, and I thought this is really a truth. It's one of the great truths that I have never known before I got into customer service. If you spend your life thinking that the the world's full of stupid people and they just all happen to be on your phone today, you are creating a hell for yourself, that that job becomes a living hell. And I myself could never live a life like that, I wouldn't be able to get up in the morning. If I had to go every day and talk to “stupid people” all day, like my co-workers do, because they've convinced themselves that the people they're talking to are not intelligent people. What I found instead is that, if I am tempted in some cases to think, "That was kind of a dumb question," if I'm tempted, then what I find is, since I'm in this three-way conversation and I'm inviting God to comment as we go along, I find myself being drawn to try to figure out why is the customer, why aren't they getting it? If I've had to repeat something three times, what did I... How can I say it differently? What is it that I'm not communicating? And so on, that kind of thing. It's just that... I think there's two different ways of approaching it. You either approach it as, "I'm going to judge the people who come to me, and I'm gonna be thinking that they're dumb," or something like that, or I can approach it with the compassion of the Christ whom I want to imitate, and try to understand the people on the phone rather than judging them.

LA: Ron, you're really helping me see this particular piece of Scripture with new eyes. 'Cause this is this... In Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, He says this kind of hard piece of advice for us to put into practice, like, "Anyone who says, 'You fool,' to someone else will be in danger of the fires of hell." But it's within this paragraph that Jesus starts out as saying, "You know you're not supposed to murder someone, and then you're gonna be subject to judgment." But then He goes through a couple of steps and it ends with, "You're not even supposed to say 'You fool' to someone." And as I'm reflecting on this in the context of this very normal day-to-day experience that CSRs have of thinking it's helpful to vent over Skype chat to other people, in a way, we're really creating this other out of the customer and kind of murdering people that we're trying to serve, like murdering the whole category of customers by just ripping them to shreds in our Skype chat. That has a very real effect on our inner experience of people and relationships, in the same way that... I don't wanna say in the same way that murder would have an effect on your soul, I don't wanna be hyperbolic, but Jesus linked those things for a reason. Mark, tell me if I'm being hyperbolic, you bring me back into the sense here.

MR: You are but Jesus was being hyperbolic too, he was exaggerating for a purpose, and I think you're really getting at something, I just... I wanna share a story 'cause this is related, it's exactly what you're talking about, but one of the first times I ever observed this, now it wasn't with customer service, it was actually with a teacher, Dallas Willard, you may know the name Dallas Willard, who wrote some amazing... He was actually a philosopher, you would know that Ron, a serious philosopher as well as an amazing Christian writer. And many, many years ago when I was working at a church, I had him come to give some lectures, and we would get a lot of interesting people from the community. Well, one day he was giving this lecture and one of the people from the community who was quite unusual, asked a question in the Q&A, and it was just... I was so embarrassed, right here I got this wonderful thinker and philosopher, and this question is awkward and... I don't remember what it was, but it was just bad, right, and I'm judging the guy, I'm thinking, "You fool." So Dallas is listening and he gets done, and first of all, he looks at the man, he says, "Thank you for your question. So what I hear you asking is this... " And he reframes it in a way that actually I think was probably what the man was trying to say, and then he answers it, and he does it with such love and respect. Number one, I felt ashamed, I felt ashamed of me, that I was so judgmental, "You fool." That's what I was doing to this guy, and also I thought, that's exactly Jesus. And I wanna be like that. And I don't know how often I've been able to be like that, 'cause that was like more than 30 years ago in my life, but I remember it was just such an amazing example to me, of exactly the kind of thing you're talking about in a different line of work, but it's the same thing, you can either look upon people as idiots or you can look upon them as people who are human beings loved by God, worthy of respect, and even if they're not respecting you, you can return respect. So your story, it's just... You reminded me so much of that moment that for me was really quite a watershed moment.

LA: Can you imagine if all of us had that experience of, my God, I wanna be like that man, when we called our bank, like with when we called, or when we call the phone company, or when we call, I don't know what other software support help desk, and we get someone on the phone and have... In that moment, we have our fears and our anxieties transformed and we leave saying, "I wanna be more like that." Ron, do you think that's possible?

RJ: Is it possible for us to...

LA: Is possible for... Maybe I'm asking too much, you already got a lot on your plate with people judging your conversations, but do you think it's possible to model Christ in a way in your CSR conversations that others leave feeling some of that transformative interaction with Jesus. Like, "I want a little more of that."

RJ: I not only think it's possible, Leah, that is what really motivates me. That's what excites me about each day that I put on the headset, to be able to do that or to strive to do that is really what excites me. There's this phrase that pops up in the Gospels that often, there are times where it says that Jesus was moved with compassion, and that is really what moved me, that's what moved me away from being afraid of the job and to start really embracing the job, was that people would come on the line and they'd be... They are angry a lot, true, but they also come on, and you can tell there's anxiety there, there's concern, people call for a number of different reasons, someone's hacked into my computer and they're taking my money, that kind of thing. And if you have even an ounce of compassion, it makes you want to help, and so that desire is really at the heart of what makes me enjoy my job to be able to try to help people like that. But there are these other things that can so easily drag you down, and as I said before, that's what I think you really have to guard against, as far as this job being hard on the soul, I've mentioned that a few times, that you get evaluated, and I believe that the hardest part, when I talk to other CSRs, I feel it's the same thing, the hardest part about this job, and the hardest part on the soul is the concern that they have for how the statistics are gonna come out this month, how my stats are gonna be. I spent too long on that last call, that's really gonna drag down my AHT, which is my average handling time. I just couldn't get that person off the phone, or a bad evaluation, and it really dragged down my score. And what happens is every month you meet with your team leader and the team leader goes over your scores with you, and early on, I had a couple... One team leader in particular, who was quite young and she felt that in order to get across to me how serious this was, she had to shame me, and so she did that routinely, and it wasn't just me, it was everybody on the team, and so I really got a strong dose of this in the beginning, that every single thing you do every day, you have to be thinking about, how is this gonna look on my evaluation at month end. And so when I said earlier on that this job can be very hard on the soul, I think that that is the part for me that really struck me when I started this job that made me realize I have to make a decision, because on the one hand, I do wanna be like that person you were talking about a moment ago, Leah. I wanna be that person who can... Just working for a bank, but I can be touching people all day and giving them strength and giving them a desire to go on and live good lives. But at the same time, I also have to be thinking about how can I quickly end this call, how can I use the script the number of times that I'm supposed to, how can I hit all the tick marks on that evaluation so that I get a good evaluation at the end of the month. And what I finally realized was, I truly had to make a choice, and I don't mean to be melodramatic about it, but in my case, at least, especially with the particular supervisor that I had, I realized that it came down to what Christ says, "No man can serve two masters." You cannot serve both God and Mammon. That mammon, that Greek word, mammon is just referring to wealth, but in my case, it's not wealth, nobody ever got rich being a CSR, but what I had to do was make a decision, am I here in this role as a CSR serving God, or am I serving the score card? That's basically what it came down to for me. And when I made that, I realized I had to make that decision, and then when I made that decision, then yes, there were times when there were awkward moments when I had to go into a scorecard session and had to really kinda defend myself, why didn't I do this, or this, or this, or why didn't I shorten the calls and so on, and it was a deliberate decision, it was something that I just simply had to do.

LA: Yeah, and this is from... Just to remind our listeners, if they wanna look it up in the context, this is from Matthew 6 chapter... Yes, Matthew 6:24, where Jesus says, No one can serve two masters. And I'm hearing it in a different way as you speak, because I think your job is literally customer service, who you're serving is theoretically in the name of your job.

RJ: Yeah, it is, yeah.

LA: And yet the metrics of your job or the incentives, sometimes go against the name of the job, which is customer service, sometimes it's... You would think that your job is to serve your timeline or your managers, and obviously you have this difficult dance of trying to do both and at the same time, which only... Which maybe you can't regulate but your faith can regulate.

RJ: Right. When I started out, then it was really a deliberate decision, and for me, early on then, about the time I wrote the book, I was rather militant about it, I was decisive in choosing, I'm gonna do what Jesus wants me to do, and I'm not gonna try to hurry people off the phones, but I've been doing this for a number of years now, I've been doing it since the year 2000 actually, so I've been doing it for over 20 years, and I have learned over these years to be much more mellow about it and to trust God, and it is very possible I have found, to keep the AHT goals, I just had to get better at my job, I just had to give it time, and I had to know my material better, and I had to trust that I knew it, and I had to learn certain things, like, if you don't sound confident, the conversation ends up longer because then the customer isn't assured by you, so then they keep asking more questions because they feel your lack of confidence. So just little things like that. I learned to refine those... God taught me to refine those over the years, and I've been staying within goal now for... Let's see what's it been. I think it's been the past 10 years or so. I can do it, and I know now that others can do it as well, but I don't do it while sacrificing service to the customer, the service to the customer comes first.

LA: Ron, if you could give one piece of advice to people who are either first starting out as a CSR or who are working in customer service, but feel so soul sapped and drained by this work, what would your piece of advice be?

RJ: It would be to look at the very next verse after that famous essay by Paul about love in 1st Corinthians 13 that gets repeated in marriage ceremonies all the time. The greatest of these is love. And it talks about love. The Greek word here is agape, it's the love of God. We never go on to the next verse, Chapter 14:1 is pursue or earnestly pursue, depending on how you translate that, earnestly pursue love. Earnestly pursue the love of God. That would be my advice to anybody who's getting into a CSR role, because if you do that, if you earnestly pursue the love of God throughout your day, it's not gonna drain you, it's gonna energize you.

MR: Well said. [chuckle]

LA: Ron, thank you so much for joining us on the Making It Work Podcast. It's been a pleasure.

MR: Yes, thank you.

RJ: It has for me as well, thank you very much.

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