Maybe the Secret to Great Customer Service Employees Is Puppies

In addition to being good for business and employee morale, having puppies around customer service employees encourages patience and understanding.

There’s a case to be made not just for dogs but puppies in the workplace. I have long been an advocate for pets in the office, but I hadn’t considered the particular added joy baby dogs can provide.

“Monday was an exceptionally good day at Navy Federal Credit Union’s Winchester Operations Center in Frederick County. Employees there got to take a break from their everyday routines to play with puppies,” I read excitedly in a piece by Brian Brehm in The Winchester Star.

The puppies are service dogs in training, who need to be socialized. They were brought to the office by a nonprofit organization called Hero Labradors, Brehm reports.

The puppies need socialization, but so do many employees. There are many surly, unpleasant people whose moods may be turned around by interaction with puppies.

I have experienced so many sour customer service employees over the years that I wonder whether it wouldn’t be a good idea to keep one or two puppies in every place where customer service employees work. Stores and other companies with customer service employees could socialize puppies from the local animal shelter as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts. Employees and customers likely would be in a better mood and the puppies would be socialized and might even find forever homes. Customers could be offered the chance to fill out an application to adopt one, or more, of the puppies.

Warning Signs

Of course, there is a liability to keeping puppies in a place where the dogs will interact with the public. There’s always a risk that a puppy will bite someone. However, with the right guidance from shelters and service dog training facilities, the risk is probably low. Signs also could warn customers of the puppies’ presence and the small risk they might get nipped.

Bonding Time

My guess is many people would stop in a storefront with puppies inside—more so than they would a store without cute canines. In addition to drawing customers in, puppies would provide an icebreaker. Conversation between employees and shoppers would flow more easily after they bond over how cute the puppies are. The cuteness of puppies is something most people usually can agree on. In a divisive time, puppies are a reliably safe zone of conversation.

Patience and Kindness

In addition to being good for business and employee morale, having puppies around customer service employees encourages patience and kindness. It takes sensitivity to relate to and interact with puppies. The qualities that make a person good at working with puppies are the same that make a person good at working with people.

The goodwill toward hyperactive, wayward puppies could extend to interactions with humans. If a customer is taking a long time choosing the product they like, or hemming and hawing over price, the customer service employee might be reminded of a struggle they had that day with one of the puppies. Puppies, after all, can be difficult, too, though we forget that sometimes because of how irresistible they are.

Caregiving Mindset

Much like puppies in need of help, customers also need to be taken care of. That’s something that’s easy to remember with puppies, but easy to forget about customers who are straining employees’ patience. Having puppies in a workplace likely puts employees in a caregiving mindset. That’s the mindset you want them to bring to customer interactions.

You can’t be too exacting with puppies. That’s yet another good point to remember when interacting with customers. I sometimes feel like customer service employees are playing a game of “gotcha” with customers. It’s good that they follow the rules of the company they work for, but those rules are counterproductive when they are enforced in such a way that customers leave feeling they had a negative experience.

Puppies remind customer service employees of the importance of keeping the workplace, including (especially!) interactions with customers, joyful and full of understanding. A puppy is likely to have an accident or two, or stray where they shouldn’t from time to time. That’s true of customers, too. Much like puppies, we all need a little understanding from time to time.

Could your customer service employees and business benefit from some puppy love?