Be Passionate and Determined

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Doesn’t that sound ideal?  But for most of us, it’s only a dream.  We grab at anything that pays the bills, keeps our kids fed and keeps a roof over our heads.  Instead of making the most of what we are doing while we work toward doing what we really want to do, we treat employment with all the enthusiasm of zombies.  I believe that Zappos has helped to show us that there is another way.

Ninth in a series.

Zappos Core Value #9:  Be Passionate and Determined

In my experience, “passion” is about the last word that many would associate with their jobs.  Too many of my coworkers and subordinates have treated their employment with an attitude of bare tolerance.  “This is just what I do to earn a paycheck,” is their sad refrain.

I shake my head and say “Life’s too short, dude!  Go do something else.”

I have come to the conclusion that this unfortunate situation is often the product of “job mismatch.”  As much as management seeks to avoid this, it can be tough.  There are lots of people who can “fake it” for a 45-minute interview, then show their true colors once hired.  Applicants know we want to see indications of interest in the company, investment in their career, cheerfulness and, yes, passion.  I once played a part in hiring an applicant who seemed to embody all of these qualities.  She told me this was her “dream job” and that she had to pinch herself to believe that she wasn’t really dreaming.  A month later, she left to go work elsewhere.  Perhaps it was us disappointing her as much as the other way around.

Once you’re on the job, passion and determination can’t be faked.  You might get away with it at the interview, but when you have a customer screaming at you for the third time in the same day, you either have what it takes or you don’t.

I like to think of employment as something like a marriage:  You’re supposed to take it for better or worse.  You don’t run away or give up on days that fall into the “worse” category.

In an industry in which success is measured by the happiness of the customer, employees must be committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure that happiness.  It’s always nice when you get a customer who is already happy with the company, but most of the time, you have to create that happiness.  Fortunately, happiness is contagious.  However, this means that employees must have the right attitude in order to transmit that happiness to the customer.  This is what I mean by “passion.”  It’s that determination that “I am going to satisfy you if it’s the last damned thing I do.”

I will grant you that turning around an unhappy customer is often not an easy thing to accomplish.  Pulling off this feat requires having a lot of arrows in your quiver.  Apologizing as if you just broke your best friend’s heart.  Knowledge of products, availability and payment and delivery options.  Offering to refund money and resend the item as well.  Offering free next day shipment.  Coming through on all those promises.

As a customer service rep¸ I would know that I’d succeeded when my customer was rendered speechless.  Or when she would ask me why I was trying so hard.  Or when he would say it’s hard to stay mad when I’m so, well, nice.

Working in customer service can be an emotional roller coaster.  However, it doesn’t matter how good an actor/actress you are.  If you’re not a true believer, the customer will see right through you, at which point you are toast.

But if you’re truly aghast that something happened to prevent the customer from being delighted the first time around, and if you are determined to move heaven and earth to make it right, you might have the passion required to work in a place like Zappos.

I hope I get to find out personally one of these days.

Tomorrow:  We finish up Zappos Week with Core Value #10 – Be Humble.

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