A Wonder Drug for Service Electricians: The reward of altruism when dealing with customers

By Andrew McCoy and Fred Sargent | Feb 15, 2023
A heart made out of tools on a dark red background
Derek is a great service electrician and loves his job. 




Derek is a great service electrician and loves his job. He relishes the satisfaction of knowing he has solved people’s problems at the end of each workday.

He looks forward to applying his training and experience to the challenges he encounters with every new service call. Most of all, though, he enjoys the personal gratification in knowing he has made an impact and helped people.

They are his company’s customers. But they are Derek’s clients. To the company, the value in having them is profitability. To Derek, their value is priceless.

Customers who call for service give Derek great reviews. The next time they call, many ask for him by name. The third time around, before they can remember the name of the company, they are apt to say, “Let’s get Derek back here to handle this.”

Business gurus always remind us that in every industry, the frontline workers dealing directly with customers are truly the face of their company. But those experts seldom mention how fulfilling customers’ needs can be equally rewarding to the ones who make it happen.

When done right, the successful delivery of electrical service is as rewarding to the electrician as it is satisfying to the customer. It’s a main ingredient in the glue of employee retention.

It’s potentially a magnet for recruitment as well. Many apprentices were initially inspired to apply after having an opportunity to observe and talk to electricians like Derek on the job.

In this article, Derek is representative of many great service electricians we have gotten to know over many years, with their best qualities compressed into a composite character. Admittedly, what we have expressed thus far has been purely the product of anecdotal evidence, not scientific observation.

But here come two physicians who co-authored a New York Times bestseller crammed with data that backs up everything we have always said and believed about this subject.

In “Wonder Drug: 7 Scientifically Proven Ways That Serving Others Is the Best Medicine for Yourself” (St. Martin’s Essentials, New York, 2022), Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli provide a research-rich case for something we all have merely sensed. And they repeatedly remind readers that their conclusions are based on findings, not just “mushy stuff.”

Early on, the authors frankly admit that doctors are not always known for having “soft skills.” They recall from their medical school training that “customer service is for nurses and social workers.” They were taught that doctors should remain detached and aloof in ministering to patients.

After becoming chief medical officer at a center with 8,500 employees—and confronted with a report from outside consultants on the sad state of employee engagement and patient satisfaction—Mazzarelli (with Trzeciak’s help) resolved to mount a vigorous campaign to raise the level of compassion that their doctors, nurses and others would exhibit in treating patients. Dauntingly, it meant that their 500 doctors, for example, would have to start being more personable, acting more courteously and becoming better listeners when face-to-face with patients.

Compassion makes a difference

One of the easier solutions called for taking more time to talk with patients during the doctors’ regular rounds. This very small but important dosage of added compassionate behavior, as Mazzarelli soon found out, would only take 40 more seconds in conversation to make a difference.

The compassionate campaign was a success and benefited patients and staff. In subsequent consumer surveys, discharged patients and their families now rated the medical center as being a “compassionate” institution. The number of medical staff members who complained of being “burned out” also began to plummet.

As the caregivers introduced compassion, they were rewarded in return with a boost to their own psychological and physiological well-being. Compassion made all the difference.

Mazzarelli and Trzeciak detail all the dividends returned to caregivers from a compassionate style of work. But, more important, they go on to tell the even larger story of how regularly dealing with everyone, everywhere in an “altruistic” way “is the best medicine for yourself.”

Top service and maintenance electricians have a big lead on most of us in this regard. They are our industry’s “caregivers.” The very best of them bring to their jobs every day the principles spelled out in “Wonder Drug.” We can all learn from them.

shutterstock / anna.evlanova

About The Author

MCCOY is Beliveau professor in the Dept. of Building Construction, associate director of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction and director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech. Contact him at [email protected].


SARGENT heads Great Service Forums℠, which offers networking opportunities, business development and professional education to its membership of service-oriented contractors. Email him at [email protected].





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