In an attempt to provide a writing prompt, a friend had recently asked 'What is your biggest roadblock today?'

I was in the middle of a rough work week and was angry and annoyed due to two major reasons:

  1. Negativity bias of our employees: Data from our customer calls showed that only 7-10% of our customers were nasty and unprofessional. Employees felt otherwise, they said 'most customers' were rude, and they wanted out from making these calls. They held onto the hurt and humiliation from their interactions with the customers.
  2. Irrational behavior of customers: Any B2C service-oriented organization is bound to have rude customers. We typically handle them 1:1. But this time, some of our customers got together demanding we reduce our service fee for everybody as opposed to providing waivers only to those financially impacted by COVID-19. They rallied their rage and things got out of control. While such a situation is painful in most industries, it is worse in healthcare or education. Customers tend to get personal with their attacks and profanity flows.

I thought of different ways to solve these two problems. Should we send a note to such customers and let them go? Should we ignore and just focus on addressing the negativity bias? I didn't know. I was very tempted to do the former, I thought it would do two things:

  1. Set an example to the rest of our customers on what was not acceptable.
  2. Send a strong message to our employees that their self-respect matters to us.

On any other day, I would have known that a better way to take care of our employees would be to equip them to handle nastiness and build resilience; it is not to let go of customers. On any other day, I would have thought of ways to address customer issues, instead of wanting to let them go . But not that day. I was frustrated, and that frustration was my biggest roadblock that day. It stopped me from thinking clearly. I knew I needed help.

I called my mentor and he said, ‘You’ll have only a handful of angry and vengeful customers, probably 1-2% of them; the rest in the group are on the fence. What can you do to turn such customers on the fence into your brand ambassadors? Just a few years ago, they chose you over the other options they had. Remind them of the love they felt a few years ago.

You know what I love more than a great insight, a task associated with it. My mentor went on and added, ‘Please send me a list of 10 ideas that you can execute to turn them around and bring back that love’

I finally felt like I had the right tools to get out of this maze, except that the maze’s exit point was the beginning of a new challenge. Phew, 10 ideas on how to get your haters to love you?!

It would be a lot of work, take a lot of time and I wasn't even sure if it would work. I had to force myself to think from a place of compassion and love. In my mind, I had to re-create the first few moments experienced by every customer who chose us over other options. I was already frustrated and angry and to replace that emotion with love was challenging.

When I sat down to write those 10 ideas, the first two ideas took a lot of time. By the time I was writing the fifth idea, I noticed my frustration fading. While writing the sixth idea, I smiled as I visualized customers coming to our office for the first time and signing up with us. I repeated this exercise, imagined our customers in different phases, and then my best ideas were slowly beginning to take form as love started to flow seamlessly.

Come to think of it, on most days, if not all, my biggest roadblocks are my emotions.

I need to fight these emotions every day to get work done. These emotions impact my flow, clarity of thought and my energy. They come in the way of making progress. Emotional awareness is a prerequisite for clear thinking and I need a system to handle these roadblocks. A simple, easy and quick process that enables me to reflect and capture those big emotions.

Logging My Emotions

I tried a visual emotion log about a month ago. Every hour for a week, during waking hours, I recorded my primary emotion. I was not confident if I would have the discipline to log every hour; it seemed tedious. But to my surprise, I looked forward to shading that color in. It was very calming. At the end of the week, I had almost 100 data points and I found it very insightful to note the patterns of my moods.

After that week, I missed logging. That pause I took every hour to acknowledge what I experienced was my reset button.

(This log is inspired by the Dear Data project. You can get the legend from there if you want to decode my emotional state that week :) )