When we consider our meaningful work, we’re more motivated in our work. We take more pride in the work we do and we’re more productive.
You got into this job because you wanted to help people. (Or maybe you just wanted a paycheck.) But when you’ve just answered your 5th password reset email of the day, you might be struggling to decide if this job provides you with everything you need.
Is there more out there?
While customer service work can be amazing and rewarding, at the end of the day, it’s just a job. It can be stressful and thankless work. Some days you might struggle to find motivation. Especially when you’re explaining how to reset passwords ad infinitum.
Trying to avoid the existential dread of a meaningless job? This post is for you.
74% of millennials want a job where their work feels meaningful.
Meaning comes from feeling useful, important, and impactful. When we consider our meaningful work, we’re more motivated in our work. We take more pride in the work we do and we’re more productive. Not only is meaningful work fulfilling, it also makes us better employees.
If you’re feeling uninspired, it’s tempting to place blame on your manager and the company you work for. However, it’s been discovered that “the sense of purpose a person finds in his or her work is a deeply personal thing.” In fact, research has suggested our sense of meaningful work is independent of job description, office perks or manager.
What does this mean for finding meaning and purpose in our work? It means that our happiness at work is entirely up to us. Yep, we are solely responsible for finding meaning in our work. It depends on no one else.
This sentiment can either be incredibly liberating, or utterly frightening.
I want to encourage you to take ownership and make your job your own. Using the strategies below, you can find motivation in even the most surprising of tasks:
Think about creating deep skill sets
Jean Hsu, an engineering leadership coach, found new passion in her work through deep diving into specific skills.
Most of us start our careers as generalists. We know a little bit about a lot of things. When we want to grow our abilities, we look for a new thing to pick up. Instead, we might find more meaning in developing specialist skills.
A specialist’s knowledge resembles a capital T: wide across the top of subjects, but deep into one specific topic.
For example, a specialist customer service agent would be able to help the majority of customer concerns that come in. But they would also be able to consult deeply on a specific issue that a customer needed assistance on, such as setting up a custom API integration with unique requirements.
Jean found that becoming a specialist opened her eyes to a new way of working. “It was the process of building depth and expertise that was invaluable — working on something beyond the superficial level of just getting something to work is very different from understanding it fully.” And not only that, Jean noticed that specialists were often more in demand than generalists. When a new feature had to be developed, the team was built around the specialist – not around a generalist.
Seek real time feedback from customers
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing-that’s why we recommend it daily.” —Zig Ziglar
Feedback from customers can be incredibly rewarding. Even helping someone reset their password can be a nice experience when they thank you for your quick reply and clear instructions. Negative feedback can help us improve, and is rewarding in its own way.
But most customers aren’t going to offer up their feedback spontaneously. We have to ask for it. For front line workers, the easiest way to request customer feedback is through customer satisfaction surveys.
Do you remember getting gold stars in elementary school? Remember that happy feeling every time you got a worksheet back with a new sticker on it? That feeling still exists in adults. Customer satisfaction ratings can trigger it.
If you haven’t turned on customer satisfaction ratings yet, try adding a simple survey to your email signature. You might be surprised at how meaningful customer appreciation feels.
Set long term goals, and break them down
If you feel like you aren’t where you want to be, every day can seem like a waste of time. Floating from one meaningless task to the next drains motivation and drive.
For example, if a long term goal is to obtain a management position, look for opportunities to improve leadership skills in your current role. You might oversee a knowledge base update, track customer satisfaction scores weekly, or help onboard new customer support agents. Just because “manager” isn’t in the title, doesn’t mean the job doesn’t include opportunity for growth.
Research has shown that you’re more likely to meet career goals when they are specific. Start by looking into your future and determining exactly what you want to see in 6 months, 1 year or 5 years.
What kind of team do you want to be a part of?
What responsibilities do you want to own?
How much money do you want to be making?
Then, break down your long term goal into specific actionable steps that you can accomplish with your daily work. One of your goals might even be to meet for coffee with colleagues who can provide advice on meeting your long term goal. Instead of seeing the next work week as a slog to the weekend, visualize it as five days of moving towards your career goal.
Find joy and meaning in the journey towards your goal.
Don’t think “I’ll be happy when…” At that rate, your happiness will always seem distant.
Each step is important. By setting specific, attainable goals, you can find meaning in every task you take on.
Personalize each interaction, and make connections
At the end of the day, customer support is about helping people and making their day a little brighter. As cliche as it sounds, every customer interaction is an opportunity to make a difference.
Think about the last time you had a bad day and had to contact customer support.
Maybe you dreaded picking up the phone, expecting a fight. If the customer support agent was pleasant and accommodating (maybe even cracking a joke), how did your mood change? On the flip side, if the conversation was soulless and robotic, how did you feel?
Front line agents are uniquely positioned to interact with more vulnerable, potentially upset people than any other role. The average support person might help anywhere from five to 50 customers a day. Some of these might be non-technical users embarrassed about their lack of knowledge. Some of these might be incredibly frustrated customers who keep running into brick walls. Regardless, each one needs our help, and we’re in the perfect position to provide it.
Every single person that contacts support has things going on in their life we can’t help with. But what we can do is listen to their concerns, solve any problems we can, and brighten their day a little.
And what’s more meaningful than that?