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...

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