Yesterday morning while getting my coffee I encountered a small army of ants determinedly making their way across my kitchen floor. I sprayed them with bug spray to temporarily hold them at bay and called Terminix who comes out once a month and (or so I thought) on an as-needed basis.
"I can send someone out next Thursday," said the customer service rep, whose nasally voice could have been a man or a woman's. (I'm kicking myself that I did not get their name, as it is much harder to compose an indignant follow-up letter without one). "But it's an emergency," I said. "Could you at least come in the next day or two," (this being Friday). "No, Ma'am. We don't consider this an emergency. If you had wasps in your house flying at your head then that would be an emergency. This is just something to expect living in South Florida. We can send someone out next Thursday. Do you want to schedule the appointment between 8 and 10, 10 and 12 or 12 and 2?"
As it became clear that no amount of pleading was bringing a technician any time sooner, and envisioning almost a week of frantically spraying the floors and counters with ant spray (I really hate bugs!), I said that if this was all they could do then I wanted to cancel my contract as I did not think we saw eye to eye on what a bug emergency truly was. "That's fine, ma'am," the customer service rep told me, "but there is nowhere to put that in your file. Your contract is up in October, you can call us back then." And then basically hung up.
After that call, I sat there incredibly irritated. And many hours later, I'm still irritated. Why? Why would a situation that is really not a lot more than annoying and inconvenient make such a big impression on me? Having to deal with bugs for an extra week was unsettling but after all, the one thing I could agree with the customer service rep on is that I do live in a buggy place.
The thing that really bothered me, though, as I thought it through, was the fact that this person clearly did not want to deliver what their job is essentially about -- customer service. Even, if in fact there was no way to send someone out sooner, it was the tone and the way that I was dealt with, as if they were almost happy they would not be able to help me any sooner. The same message, delivered in a different fashion, would have been taken a lot better.
The irony of this situation is that Terminix (seemingly unaware that I am at least for now still a customer), sends me promotional letters at least once a month trying to get my business. So they are spending all this time and money trying to get business they already have and yet they treat it with little regard.
To me, there are three things to be learned by all of this. Number one, if you run a customer service department, hire people that are actually interested in delivering that. And really the larger lesson is that whatever you do, make sure that you love what you do and find people to work with and for you that love what they do, too. Or at least can find a way to take pride in what they do and do it as well as they can. On my show Perspectives, my guests often discuss the importance of loving what they do and how it plays a critical part in every aspect of their lives.
Now I understand my complaint in the grand scheme of things is pretty petty and all you have to do is look on the front page of the Huffington Post to realize there are enormous, quite frightening and very dangerous situations going on in the world today. Those of huge magnitudes that are complicated and fraught with danger. That is just the scary truth and I don't pretend to know how to fix any of those. But I do think that for these little daily situations (and I seem to have encountered quite a few lately) there has to be a way to bring back some simple kindness between people.
So with that, number two is to take pride in what you do and show kindness in all of your dealings. And lastly, communicate with those in your company so you are not in essence working against yourself and wasting time and money. Understand your company's goals and make sure that you and to the extent of your abilities, everyone else is working towards them.
Pride, kindness and communication. All cornerstones of a job well done. And in the meantime, if you know a good way to get rid of ants -- please let me know!
Quick Update: Although this was meant to simply be a good case study - I would be remiss not to share some outstanding customer service from Terminix. Less than an hour after this went up, the Miami branch manager called me to apologize for how I was treated, sent the man who usually services my house out this morning and called again to follow up. So the additional and a key message overall is that when you do hear about a problem, do all you can to make the situation right. Which is the basis for a satisfied and repeat customer. Am happy to report my house is (at least for the moment) bug free!