In the business world, there exists the concept that “the customer is always right”, and therefore the seller should always be keen to listen to the customer and serve them. Although this concept was intended in the retail and commercial sense, I wanted to discuss in this article that the concept actually applies to every one of us when meeting and interacting with people.
You might argue, “Well, I’m not selling something to every person I meet?” Actually, you are. Every time you meet somebody, you’re selling them yourself – your image, your personality, your goals, your personal brand. You are in a mode of exchange with that person through every interaction, and that persons’ loyalty and love for you will either increase or decrease. Thus, there is importance in applying “customer service excellence” skills with whoever you meet.
This doesn’t mean you turn yourself into a commercial product seeking people’s pleasures and amiability; rather, what I am encouraging you to do is develop a customer service attitude that is based on proactivity and good manners. Being proactive involves taking initiative to serve every person you meet and make sure their needs are met; having good manners is necessary to carry out your actions inthe most respectful and hospitable manner.
Service with a smile
Since the concept of “customer service excellence” originates from the retail and telesales world, we can draw many lessons from retail situations that customer service representatives go through and their responses.
Imagine this scenario: you’re a sales person at a shop and you just had a huge argument with your boss. You’re in tears and feel totally miserable. Suddenly a customer walks into the shop, what do you do? An excellent customer service rep would immediately wipe away the tears, put on a big smile, and ask “May I help you?” Now, let’s apply this same principle to a different scenario that we face on a day to day level: you’ve just had a terrible day at work and you’re in a very grumpy mood. You come home, what should your “customer service excellence” side do?
Remember, we serve every person we meet in some capacity, and this includes our families. Again, put on a big smile, greet your family with love, and don’t allow what happened outside the home to affect your relationships inside your home. You might ask, is this attitude forced? Probably. Is it insincere? Perhaps. But I guarantee you, the moment you put yourself in the “customer service mode” and physically force yourself to smile or try to be interactive, your mood will change. You will be in control of your emotions, instead of your emotions controlling you.
Another example from the retail world that we can learn from is the example of a customer who makes a request that would require extra effort to achieve. Once more, the excellent customer service rep would go out of their way to ensure the customer’s needs are met and expectations surpassed. You would probably remember them and mention them to your friends. Now imagine, we adopted this same attitude and skill with our families/colleagues/friends: instead of shrugging our shoulders, rolling our eyes, or giving them the “It’s none of my concern” look, what if we were proactive and went out of our way to assist them – what type of relationship would the create? How much more productive would life be?
I recall the hadeeth of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “It is better for one you to fulfil the need of his brother (in İslaam) than residing for I’tikaaf in my mosque for two months.” (Haakim)
In another narration, a man came to Ibn Abbas while he was doing I’tikaaf in the masjid and asked him for his assistance. So, Ibn Abbas stood to leave and people around him warned him, ‘but you are in I’tikaaf’. He replied, “To assist my brother in fulfilling his need is more beloved to me than to perform I’tikaaf for 2 months in the Masjid of Rasul Allah – sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Look how the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is teaching us customer service excellence when helping our brothers or sisters in need of assistance.
I must mention though that ‘customers’ can be very difficult and might not respond to you in the way you expect, despite your good attitude. However, remember that customer service is never about the results or the sales; it’s about the experience you create when that person is with you. As long as you put forth your best effort (manifested in your attitude and actions), then you’ve done your best and that is what is important insha’Allah.
To conclude, here are three customer service tips from the Sunnah:
1. Greet people with Salaam
“I swear by the one whose hand my soul is in that you will not enter paradise until you believe. And you won’t be believed until you love one another. May I tell you something, that if you practice it you will love another, spread the Islamic greeting among you.” (Saheeh Muslim)
2. A smile in the face of your brother is charity
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” (Ibn Hajar and al–Albani) Therefore don’t underestimate what such a small act can do.
3. Accept invitation even if it’s something small
“One of the duties a Muslim owes to another Muslim is to accept when he gives him an invitation…” (Saheeh Bukhari) Do your best to attend an invitation to gatherings that are permitted, this is also good courtesy of a productive Muslim towards his/her brothers and sisters in Islam.