Listening, Better Customer Service For Life

I had an experience that reinforced something I already knew.  It helped me see something that I need to improve.

This happened after I had completed the written sales agreement on my old house up north.

That house had been paid off for a number of years but I also had a home equity line of credit with an institution that will remain nameless.  The balance on that line of credit had been zero for a number of years but I decided to keep it open for any unforeseen emergencies and besides it cost me nothing to keep it open.  But now since my home was under contract I needed to close it and get the lien removed.

Six weeks prior to this experience, right after I had signed the sales agreement I started the process of trying to close the account.

I’m not going into the details of what transpired over those six weeks but let’s just say six weeks later and a number of phone calls it wasn’t closed out.

After six weeks the list of poor customer service actions grew to the point of I had enough.

That day after two phone calls of sitting on hold for ten minutes for each call and getting cut off I made the third call.  I sat on hold for ten minutes again and this time I actually got a customer service representative.  When I was allowed to speak to a human being I immediately asked for the customer service manager.

The customer service rep asked me if I could tell her what was the issue so she could inform the manager prior to them taking the call.

I started retelling her the tale of six weeks of frustration and getting nowhere with their organization, but the customer service rep kept trying to interject her take on the situation.  She was hearing but she was not listening.

Finally she put me on hold and got her manager on the line.

The first thing the manager did was ask me about my issue and then she sat and listened to me retell my tale one more time.  She listened to the whole story.  She didn’t say a word while I was talking, she didn’t interrupt.  This manager understood how to handle a customer situation.

By just listening this manager did two important things:

  • She defused what could have been an explosive situation.

Sometimes when people are frustrated and angry they just need to get it off their chest.  They’re telling you the story not because they expect you to give them answers, not because they expect you to do anything.  All they really expect and want is for you to listen.

I felt much better after telling her my story, without an interruption or her giving me her opinion.

  • She actually listened and tried to understand my situation.

By sitting and truly listening to my situation without making an immediate assessment of me or my story she was able to understand my needs and expectations.  By doing this she was able to help me.

She didn’t come into the conversation with opinions or agendas other than helping a dissatisfied customer.  She listened and collected the information and made an informed decision.

She was able to put me in contact with the correct person and they were able to close out the line in less than ten minutes.

What the rest of the organization couldn’t accomplish in six weeks this lady accomplished in ten minutes.

Afterwards I felt I should write to the organization and let them know how good this manager was at doing their job and how poorly their customer service performs especially when it comes to communication.  But I couldn’t find out who you would address such a complaint and complement to.

So how does all this translate into me being a better person?

The other night my wife came home from her second job and I could tell she had a really bad night.  I could see she was upset.

It was late and I wanted to go to bed.  I figured she’ll be alright, she just needs to get some sleep.

The next morning as we sat eating breakfast and not talking I finally asked what was wrong and she unloaded.

She was in tears as she told me about her bad night at work and worse yet she felt like I didn’t want to be around her.

I avoided the talk the night before because I thought she wanted me to solve her problems but that’s not what she wanted.  She just needed to unload and I should have been there to listen.

Shame on me and I am sorry dear.

Just like the lady at the financial institution I should have sat down and listened to her no matter how tired I was.  By listening, without bias, without an agenda, I would have understood why she felt the way she did and could have helped.

And most importantly it would have left her unload some heavy burdens, which was probably all that she needed.

Shame on me, it was selfish.

I need to give my wife and everyone in my life better customer service.

I know this but sometimes it’s worth repeating, you need to shut up and listen.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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