What are your expectations in terms of customer service? Are there particular companies where the customer service is perceived to be so lacking that you have little or no expectations about getting good quality customer service?
I have to admit that there are companies that I find myself hesitant when needing to call their customer service representatives, because of past experiences of poor customer service.
My philosophy as a whole though is that people are people. Companies are a product of not only goods and services but also the people behind those goods and services. When it comes to customer service it is the individual representative who dictates where the experience is positive or negative. Too often, the representatives are just as frustrated as the customers who are calling trying to resolve their issues. This often leads to more frustration and frustration for both parties. And, we have all experienced times when we have called customer service when it was certainly no party.
For me, this morning, I woke up as I normally do ready to start the day. Wanting to get an early jump on things, I started if off with a healthy dose of fertilizer. (No, the fertilizer is not a joke in relation to customer service, or the perceived lack thereof). Instead, I started my day by providing a little nutrients for my lawn.
As I went outside into the backyard I noticed that there were two young gentleman working for a tree company cutting down the limbs on the large spacious tree in my neighbor’s yard behind me. Both of them appeared to not notice me walking towards them. What caught my eye was the tire tracks from their machine leading to my cable box in the ground. Beside it was what was left of the TV cable. My intuition was to ask aloud if anyone had noticed who cut my cable, but for whatever reason, I said nothing and went about my business of fertilizing the lawn.
The cable box is in the commons area shared by not only my next door neighbor and I but also where and independent companies mows. When they installed the cable initially I told the representative that it was imperative for them to bring someone else out quickly to bury the cable, because it will easily be ran over by someone who is cutting the grass not knowing it is there.
In fact, I was going to call the cable company and ask them when they were scheduled to come out and bury the cable or if they had forgotten about it because it had been several weeks since the installation. Obviously now that the cable was cut it was too late for that, but I needed to call customer service and report the situation.
When I dialed the phone, I realized by the voice recording that there was an outage in our area. Then, when I spoke to a customer service representative he told me that someone had in fact “finally come by and had buried the cable.” He said that my lack of service was due to the overall outage in the area and not the cable being cut.
Maybe I had not looked closely enough at the ground and possibly overlooked the buried cable so took him by his word and went about my day. This evening though when I returned back home my TV was still not in service, so I walked outside to look at the cable once again. When I did it became quite clear that the cable had not been buried. There were no evidence of there being any digging in that area. The cable itself was almost non-existent from the box to the house. Instead, it appeared that someone had mistakenly (I’m sure) cut the cable and then realized it and panicked. Then, they pulled the cable completely out of the outlet to the house and discarded the rest of the cable to hide the evidence.
Whether or not it was the two gentleman cutting trees or someone else is irrelevant. It really makes no difference, and really they were probably more worried about it than I was. In reality, whomever did it, if they would have simply came to me and explained that they had accidentally cut it I would have been completely fine with it. That is why they call it an accident.
Back in the house, I again called the cable company’s customer service phone number. Again, the recording stated that my area was still experiencing technical difficulties and our TV was not in service. When I finally reached a representative, I found him to be a little rough around the edges. He was short with me, and I sensed that he was not in the best of moods.
I responded by saying nothing. Rather I took a breath and waited a beat. Then, I asked him, “How is your day today?”
“You really don’t want to know.” He responded as he continued to type in my information.
My intention shifted from trying to resolve my menial issue with my television to changing the energy of this particular conversation. I joked to him that it was Friday so it cannot all be bad, to which he responded that “it is only Friday for those who do not have to work tomorrow”.
“I tried”, I said smiling. Continuing to try and be gracious with the situation.
I also joked that if the worst thing that happened to me today was that I lost my TV for the evening, then I must be doing ok because it could most certainly be worse.
He not only agreed but went on to tell me that he was dealing with not one but two deaths in his family this week. Both of which were in the state where I live, and “I can’t get there”. He expressed almost total exasperation as he said it.
Most customers when they call are upset. It’s all about them, so I wanted to change that in this scenario. By asking him how his day was it opened up a whole new conversation, a whole new understanding of each other, and not to mention it opened up a whole new line of communication.
He shared that there were no notes from my call earlier in the day, and he did not know why someone would inform me that the cable was buried, because there was nothing in the history showing that to be the case. Furthermore, my issue was not going to be as easily remedied as one would think because of the outage in the area. That meant they cannot request someone come out and replace the cable because the outage takes precedent and overrides the system. In lament terms, my cable television was going to be out of service for a few days.
The customer service representative continued to share that along with the deaths in his family but his girlfriend was at the hospital visiting her family member. He also could not attend either the funerals, because he had to work.
By allowing him the opportunity to vent completely altered the entire dynamics to the point where he said if he was near my neighborhood he would come out and run the cable himself. He also expressed his gratitude for me being both polite and patient. It was something he took sincerely, because more often than not customers react in exactly the opposite way.
“You do not know how much I appreciate your being polite and patient with me when I was short with you.” He said and continued. “If there is someone like you I will do everything in my power and more to resolve your situation.”
He apologized for the fact that he could not do more in this situation, but he was going to have another representative monitor my account asking them to notify me when service was restored so the scheduling of the new cable could be expedited.
We finished the call, although I did not completely hang up the phone. The last thing I heard out of his mouth was, “”He was pretty cool.”
The lessons in all of this for me are numerous including:
- We never know what is going on in someone else’s head.
- Often times we do not have all the information. When there are gaps we tend to assume as well as make judgments.
- We do not know what someone else is going through, and likewise, no one or nothing is responsible for our level of happiness or sadness.
- Just because someone else is having a bad day does not we have to have a bad day.
- Lastly, this particular conversation reminded me of another conversation I had although this was with a Buddhist Monk. He explained to me that “it doesn’t matter if you become Buddhist. It does not matter what you practice as long as you practice kindness. All that really matters is that you practice kindness.”