“Depends on Who You Talk to”

Yesterday, while getting ready to go for a walk, I dropped my cell phone onto the concrete sidewalk outside my house.  This particular drop (note: I have dropped that phone hundreds of times in the two-ish years I have owned it and somehow it has held up) must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, because alas, the screen cracked.  And not just a little bit, my friends.  I’m talking diagonally across the entire screen, and splaying out from the middle.  It’s so bad that I literally avoid touching certain parts of the screen because I’m afraid of getting shards of glass embedded in my fingers.

So, I decided I would try to find out if I might be eligible for an upgrade.  I would have to make a phone call.  Which brings me to today’s topic.  The first person I talked to was at a store where I do all my “cell phone business.”  I could tell that this person didn’t like to have to explain something more than once, and since I am the type of annoying customer who likes to double and triple-check to make sure I understand everything, we weren’t exactly a match made in heaven, conversation-wise.  But she was still helpful enough, and she told me that I’m not up for renewal until November, but I can do “early renewal,” I would just need to call my carrier’s customer service line to find out what the early renewal fee would be.

On to phone call number two.  This person was very friendly, and told me that I am currently eligible for an upgrade, would have to pay $36, but then could possibly have the fee waived.  However, she spoke so fast that it was hard to understand her at times.  I think sometimes people say the same things over and over again, and the more times they say them the better they get at saying them really fast (we’ve all been asked, at one point or another while out shopping, “wouldyouliketosavetenpercentbyopeneningupastorecreditcard?”).  After that phone call, I had a slightly better handle on the situation, but was still a little bit confused.  SO I called my store back one more time to make sure I understood what I was supposed to do, and what it would cost me.

This time I got a different person.  She made it sound like my situation was no big deal at all, and was so pleasant to talk to.  I asked her about the different things that I had been told up to this point, and she clarified them and corrected my misunderstandings in an extremely patient and polite way.  Turns out, as the second person had told me, I am currently eligible for an upgrade, and the $36 fee would be charged regardless of when I go about doing the upgrade because it’s just an activation fee.

After the whole thing was over, I thought to myself, “wow, it really just depends on who you talk to.”  If I had stopped after my first phone call, I might have just said “hmm, I think I’ll just wait until November, and then I won’t get charged an early upgrade fee,” which would have been completely unnecessary given what I now know about my actual situation.

This exact same scenario has played itself out so many times in my life, with so many different types of situations (not just in the business realm, either).  It just seems like sometimes, you really have to dig.  If you don’t like the answer you just got, sometimes all you have to do is call and hope to speak to a different person.  Which begs the question, who is correct?  Are they not all following the same rules?  Are some people bending rules, while others don’t feel like going out of their way?  It’s very frustrating and confusing from the customer’s end.

I hope this doesn’t sound overly negative, insensitive, or complain-y.  I understand that taking phone calls and answering people’s questions all day is a really tough job.  And that’s why the people who are really friendly and helpful stand out so much.  In a perfect world, the quality of service one receives would not depend on who they talked to.  All employees would understand their company’s policies inside and out, and would care genuinely about each person calling in.  But it’s not a perfect world.

From where I sit, I think the responsibility lies with the employers.  Employees need to feel valued themselves in order to deliver quality service to customers.  They need to care about what they’re doing on some level, and be inspired to do it well.  Sure, there are people that have a sort of intrinsic motivation to do quality work no matter what job they do, but others might need a gentle nudge in the right direction, in the form of praise, incentives, or whatever works for the individual person.  The best companies deliver consistent, helpful service to their customers, regardless of which employee is delivering it.