Monday, December 29, 2014

A Day in the Life of Customer Service

(This post is gratefully dedicated to those overworked, stressed-out, under-appreciated but very capable customer service colleagues whom I was fortunate to have worked with over the years.)

First, a dictionary Definition:

Then some company classroom theory:


And finally... a "real world" customer:

All of us who work in customer service have likely known days like these; days that would come along when too much became more than enough and patience ran very thin while muddling through cumbersome, seemingly incomprehensible and inflexible internal company procedures that only set-up more roadblocks to further agitate an already extremely irate, impatient and demanding customer.

Sound familiar?

Following is an e-mail letter that was actually sent out on one of those days to that one unreasonably impatient and extremely irate customer who just would not accept “wait” as the answer in response to processing the request.

As if to exact a sentence of justice for the crime of being made to wait, the customer demanded an immediate written explanation to detail the reasons it was necessary to wait for the request to be processed.  

Normal people would probably call the demand a waste of time, however, customer service is after all, responding to customer requests no matter how inane the request may appear to be.

The following reply was sent. (Names and industry-specific details have been removed)

Dear Customer,

The changes you have requested were submitted to our head office this morning. We are now waiting for that request to be approved and the required internal system amendments to be made. Hopefully we shall have this all sorted out and completed by tomorrow morning, or the morning after at the latest.

In response to your frustration and impatience, which we truly understand and sympathize with, we are providing you with this written confirmation that you have rightly requested so that you may pass it along to appease your understanding customer.

We also acknowledge that the change you requested is simple and straight forward to carry out, however, our internal procedures must be strictly followed without question; company policy of course. To further assist you however, we are pleased to provide the following unofficial explanation that has been borrowed from an unnamed source which we believe to be very reliable if not entirely believable.

You are correct! Years ago making the required changes you requested only took minutes when we could make all the system amendments here in the local office. As you now know, everything is done elsewhere outside of the country and may require several days to accomplish.

In today's modern business environment and practices, this paradigm shift from what was once a task that required minutes to accomplish into a task that now requires days to accomplish stems from what is known as centralization, streamlining, reducing costs and improving efficiency. Most companies you are doing business with are also following similar practices in one form or another. That may be one reason they are giving you the business instead of doing business with you. 

The quantum leap that was achieved here was going directly from minutes to days thus bypassing the need to go from minutes, to hours, and then to days. Now you know where the efficiency was gained; in the quantum leap itself.

In the 20th century, the question was, "How many people are required to change a light bulb?"

In the 21st century we all accept that a group is required to change a light bulb, therefore the question now is, "How much time is required for that group to change the light bulb?"

This change in question is called partial evolution because we no longer have to ask, "How many?" but instead we ask "How long?”

The word partial here becomes necessary for two reasons. The first, because the answers required for both questions remain unknown quantitative numbers that business management math experts are still puzzling over. The second, because throughout the 20th century a consensus was never reached regarding the definitive number of people that light-bulb groups required. Regardless of which century is analyzed the answer remains unknown because it just doesn't add up whichever way you try to figure it out.

In conclusion, we are compelled to confront one final question. Why are people today busy with reading and answering e-mails that detail possible conjectures concerning when needed changes might be made rather than simply allowing that overworked someone to more constructively use their time to actually follow-up on that requested change? 

Don’t panic! This is only a rhetorical question.

The final answer to your initial question, “When?” is “Eventually!”

This answer shall always endure the test of time. Surely you will agree it is re-assuring to discover that some things do not have to be changed in the name of progress.


Anyway, the obvious message here was to me rather than to the customer: time to get out of this line of work. 

Having done so, I shall never return to it.

A parting shot:

Hopefully this shall never apply to aircraft maintenance crews... or surgeons... or the mechanics who work on my car...or your car... but one just never knows for sure.

The Oddblock Station Agent

And one more just too good to pass up...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Prisons of our Own Making

Sunday morning, December 21, 2014 at 08:27

Lord God of Israel, the one Creator and giver of life, I am thankful to you alone that I see this new Sabbath day arrive and I am truly grateful to you for another day of life which you have granted me. Again I thank you Lord.

Walking has become important to me, a daily obsession to try to stay well, and already I have been out for my usual early morning walk. This month thus far I have accumulated 44.3 miles of recorded walking. In truth, this record keeping is meaningless, but I do the walking and keep the mileage records for my sanity and occasional de facto peace of mind. Almost always I feel better while walking and for a time afterward, therefore walking has become a vital part of my mental well-being. On top of this, walking is good for heart health and, an integral part of my ongoing long term recovery from the heart attack.

Before I sat here to begin writing I was resting on the bed and thinking, mindlessly letting my thoughts drift and wander. Slowly realization came that I spend most of my life here at home in the house, and most of those hours are spent in this room upstairs. This said, I am the same as a prison inmate except that I am the one who by choice confines me in this room. I am by no means complaining but simply making an observation about my life and perhaps about life in general.

When I go for my walks around the neighbourhood I rarely see people walking outside (aside from dog-walkers) unless they are going to or from their cars, or walking to or from the bus. This said, few people seem to walk; most seem driven having just made that anxious dash from house to vehicles.

This age of instant communication has made us become all the more isolated as we withdraw further; spending more time in the shelter of our abodes and vehicles. Perhaps in desperation we feel a narcissistic need more than ever to retreat from the increasingly busy and crowded world around us, yet in spite of more time huddled in the believed safety of our refuges, we seem to suffer all the more from that loss of human contact that we increasingly dislike and avoid.

I do not subscribe to Facebook, Twitter or any of the like, but I do admit to having glanced at Kie's Facebook; Simply setting up a blog was a quantum leap forward. I can perceive logical explanations why people do not talk to each other or spend as much time together these days. Almost everyone communicates by deluging the cyber world with a flood of information about anything and everything concerning what they may or may not be thinking about on the spur of the moment; almost every single moment.

At times I feel like a lone turtle in a horse race wondering where everyone went. Reality is that I have been left far behind at the starting line while everyone has sped off and far ahead. Again, I honestly do not know what to think and at times wonder if I should capitulate and join in.

But why?

I have not been able to convince myself with a valid reason aside from that usual, meaningless standard, "Everyone is doing it!"

Signs of the times and blazes for life's trails:

"But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase."
(Daniel 12:4)

"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold."
(Matthew 24:12)

"But go your way till the end; and you shall rest, and stand in your allotted place at the end of days."
(Daniel 12:13

God knows what and when, but aside from the glimpses given, those are not for us to know. We may wonder all we want, and God has given us the minds to understand and freedom to wonder, but God has not given us the minds to know when.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Bridge Between Two Solitudes

Trying to belong but never quite belonging.

For many years now, trying to make sense out of life and struggling to figure out the purpose of life has been one of my quests; the human endeavour no doubt. Again this morning while pausing, writing and reflecting, I have been wondering how to define the years thus far in my journey.

My life is a story of east meets west, or west meets east, and that is how the years have unfolded. I cannot say why I was chosen to travel this route, but for most of my life I have known this was my calling. In retrospect, I can remember some signs and clues that were there along the way.

As I observe this world around me, I see a world that has been changing. I see a Canada and North America that have been changing, but having said this, I do not see a Canada that is ready for these changes. Oh yes, faint progress has been made, even sometimes reluctant acceptance of east-west relationships, but too often reality is that west and east are not really wanting doors to open, bridges to be built and change to come. This I can truly understand well.

Resistance to change is human nature. Forget self-righteous political correctness that would imply differently! That is nothing more than holding one's nose while swallowing something distastefully detestable and then in hypocritical self-delusion pretending that it tasted palatable. Political correctness is nonsense! Completely insincere nonsense!

Disliking change has always been a part of my own nature which I must struggle with, question searchingly and then my answers live with. My own feelings and racial prejudices are a part of what defines me and those which I must contend with. The invisible walls I occasionally confront at work vividly remind me about the “two solitudes” mentality that was and is so successfully pervasive in Quebec society. At the office where I am employed today the players are different but the subtle and not-so-subtle barriers are as distastefully familiar as life in Quebec was.

My own interracial marriage does not remove my prejudices from within me or resolve my problems with racism. Strangely enough the reason is that I do not see in my own marriage that she and I are racially different, yet we are undeniably different nonetheless.

So today I momentarily awakened, put together some of the pieces of that perplexing puzzle that have accumulated over the years, and realized that a part of my life is defined as a bridge; a bridge between west and east. Yes, at times a reluctant bridge, but nothing more and nothing less than a bridge… and believe me, bridges are walked all over from either end.

Written November 04, 2008
The Oddblock Station Agent

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wednesday morning, August 14, 2013 at 08:20

Before, life was just working hard. Today, life is working hard to try to remember. (A drawing by Kimberly)

Four things I forgot this morning that I should not have forgotten:

1. I forgot to thank God for this new day when I awoke.
2. I forgot to take my pill before breakfast.
3. I forgot to take the blood pressure records back upstairs.
4. I forgot that Sheridan Medical was going to call me today.

I am really bothered by the fact that completely I forgot these things, especially the 2nd and 3rd items because I was thinking about these particular two only moments before they were to be done, yet they were lost from my thoughts nonetheless. Both were completely forgotten when I started doing something else first - distraction really - but my short term memory is starting to fail me. 

The 4th item was completely out of mind because it was something from yesterday. 

The 1st item I was able to remember before I got out of bed, but I had been awake for a while.

These forgotten things are seemingly small and trivial because they are, but the fact I am forgetting in this manner is new to me - and I am bothered by this new reality that I cannot seem to change or prevent.

Anyway, yesterday was Mom's 79th birthday and I did not forget that day and event. I was not able to pick up the telephone and call her for the reasons I mentioned before. She did not even know that yesterday was her birthday. Such is that awful curse of Alzheimer's Disease. Instead, I posted a few pictures on the blog and recorded some of my thoughts.

All I know is that the years pass by and the world we know changes. We change; I change.

Nothing remains the same except for God's word and God's love. He has promised us that these two will not change and they will not depart from us.

The Oddblock Station Agent