Ancient practice of mindfulness has lessons for modern business
By Will Henderson
The centuries-old practice of mindfulness offers significant benefits to individuals and businesses involved in customer service, according to a new article co-authored by professors at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.
The article, “Service, emotional labor and mindfulness,” published in Business Horizons, was co-authored by Leyland Pitt and Ian McCarthy.
With roots in Buddhism and the contemplative practices of other religions, mindfulness has now “come out of the cloister,” and is increasingly entering mainstream culture. Business visionaries such as Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff have declared themselves devotees of mindfulness, which has been shown to have benefits across a wide range of fields and industries.
Mindfulness encourages practitioners to clear their minds and live in the moment, avoiding automatic responses or reactions to situations based on past behaviour.
Mindfulness improves employee/customer interactions
According to the article, this has clear practical applications for service-led businesses, where customer interactions are critical to their success. Mindful employees will engage in these interactions with deeper empathy for customers and greater flexibility to their needs, resulting in a dramatically improved customer experience.
Mindfulness improves customer service employees' well-being
A further benefit is that the greater empathy encouraged by mindfulness reduces the need for “surface acting,” or feigning interest in customers’ requirements, which has been shown to have a negative emotional impact on service employees. This is beneficial for employee health and wellbeing, while enhancing job satisfaction and reducing employee turnover.
The academics provide a detailed description of the theories behind mindfulness, as well as its applications in real-world scenarios and potential usefulness in business.
“It is clear that mindfulness offers tangible benefits to businesses, particularly those where customer service plays a central role,” says McCarthy. “Managers typically focus their efforts on refining processes, but our research indicates that this is less effective than empowering staff to engage with customers in a mindful way, with empathy and flexibility.”
“Practices like mindfulness have survived several centuries and can be found in some form across all major world religions,” adds McCarthy. “Our research shows why mindfulness has proved so lasting, and why businesses should pay attention: it really works.”