December 21, 2020

Service Orientation (Sales) and Compassion


Daniel E. Martin, Ph.D.

 Think for a moment about the last time a #salesperson sincerely listened to your needs, empathized with your dilemma or concerns, and did their best to address your situation. How did you feel? What emotions did it bring up? Did it help to be listened to? Did it help to feel understood and cared for? Did it help when your helper was grounded and focused on your needs; committed to helping you discover what you need? Consider those with positions that touch people in circumstances where emotions run high, and where listening makes the difference between a heated conflict or having needs met and distress soothed-never as easy as it seems, in fact quite emotionally laborious!

 Evolution and Service to Others

 It may not be at the top of our minds, but when we think of such questions we might recognize that receiving help, as well as offering help to others are deeply rooted in our psyches and DNA, since the beginning of time. For those working in service oriented occupations and industries, we can argue we are looking to hire exactly that, those who exemplify these deep social needs behaviorally. While these are core features to any close, intimate family and friendship relationship, research shows us that being treated with a sense of care is important across the board, irrespective of occupation or interpersonal situation. 

Commonality of Service Positions

 For instance, we might note that being treated with respect and attentiveness will also be appealing to an airplane passenger, trying to decide between chicken or pasta, or a customer doing a 2AM consult at a 24/7 pharmacy, or a student who is in class with a caring teacher, or a patient laying in a hospital bed post operation, being attended to by a compassionate nurse, let alone a salesperson. The thread between these very different professions is that in some way all of these individuals are receiving human service, a critical predictor of organizational performance.

The use of service orientation measures for pre-employment purposes is well established, but we argue that that compassion and service orientation are strongly related and propose proven methods to increase service orientation through compassion training.

 Service Orientation

Service Orientation is considered “being attentive, pleasant, and courteous to customers”. And refers to a “set of basic individual predispositions and an inclination to provide service, to be courteous and helpful in dealing with customers and associates”. Those higher in their service orientation are self-controlled, dependable, well-adjusted, and likable, and they will readily assist customers, especially with problem-solving and meeting customers’ needs. Similar to emotional intelligence, service-oriented individuals tend to demonstrate better job performance, as well as higher levels of other desirable social and psychological features such as self-acceptance, a sense of well-being, responsibility, self-control, and tolerance. Research on altruistic personality as well as prosocial organizational behavior suggests that personality across situations can lead to service-oriented behavior.

Service Orientation and Compassion

While service orientation leads to the use of more adaptive customer-service behaviors, resulting in more positive service delivery, higher service quality, and enhanced customer satisfaction, compassion facilitates the addressing of clients needs through the activation of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral domains at the individual and group level. At least three elements of compassion have been established relevant to service orientation: noticing another’s suffering, empathically feeling the person’s pain, and acting to ease their suffering, to extend compassion. These findings suggest that individuals higher in their service orientation have better service attitudes, adapt themselves better to diverse customers, and deliver services in a more positive manner than those lower in this personality trait.

Given these findings it is not surprising that being compassionate

is also likely to support an individual in offering a more caring service.

This could manifest in service providers through competencies such as emotional stability, expressed empathy, interpersonal skills and a genuine willingness to help. In fact, prosocial behavior and organizational citizenship behavior seem to be related to compassion as well. Compassion is a part of life as a response to organizational strife and needs, which can occur both within and be brought in from outside of the organization.

Compassionate responses often extend far beyond empathetic conversations, and can entail significant allocations of material and instrument resources directed toward persons in need. These elements also apply to how we might relate to our own needs, focusing on self-compassion, or to us growing more comfortable with receiving help and compassion from others.

Compassion Skills Training

The recognition of how important compassionate competencies are led us to develop Compassion Skills Training, an easy to use online tool which could be utilized by various people from all walks of life (Students, CEOs, Nurses, and IT employees). CST entails opportunities for engaged self-learning and self-practice through various applied methods, as well as generate unique experiential opportunities for interpersonal engagement, in ways that facilitate both intellectual growth and personal/emotional growth measurably.

The program’s capacity to enhance compassion towards self and others has also been shown to statistically significantly raise levels of service orientation, leadership, compassion, subjective well-being and a host of personal and work related competencies in CST participants. Critically, it has significantly decreased stress, anxiety and depression.

Daniel E. Martin, Ph.D.