Jewish World Review May 14, 2004 / 23 Iyar, 5764
Really, your call is important to them
Niceness is sweeping the country. No, not in the presidential campaign, you ninny. In the telephone customer rep service departments.
The last three times I've been on hold, it's been the same story. I'm hanging on the phone watching the time tick by, beginning to fume as repeatedly I am told that my call is important. Smoke billows from my ears as I hear a recording say, "Due to the high volume of calls, your wait time will be 20 minutes."
Just when I begin to consider crawling through the phone line to the other end, there's a click. A voice says, "I do apologize for your wait. I'm so sorry."
I am completely and totally disarmed. I uncoil the phone cord that I was cracking like a whip and resume breathing.
It's unusual for a corporation to apologize to the little guy. It's unusual enough to make you want to retract some of the nasty thoughts you had about the corporation - not all, just some - while you were dangling on hold.
Once I was on hold with a hospital so long that I had time to listen to three cycles of their recording describing early warning signs of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. By the time someone answered the phone, I was pretty sure I had a pain in my right arm that was a heart attack, a headache due to hypertension and a craving for orange juice that was no doubt a sign of dangerously low blood sugar.
When the voice asked if I had gotten through to radiology - I had been holding for bookkeeping - I told her I needed to hang up and dial 9-1-1 and that I'd call back later. Now, if the voice had picked up that phone and apologized for my wait, I would have been healed without so much as a referral or a co-pay.
Since this uncanny business of apologizing for my wait has happened several times lately, I'm wondering if it's not a new customer rep retraining program marching across the country. If it is, clear the path so they can get everywhere and anywhere they want.
The words and the tone of voice are so identical, you sense the customer service staff was given a script to memorize and trained by a voice coach. The females have a maternal softness when they apologize, warm and caring, but still in control. The males tend to be somewhere between Mr. Rogers and Barry White. Gentle, but still willing to fight for their sweaters.
That simple act of acknowledging me as a human being, who has other things to do with time, is so out of the ordinary that I become putty in their hands.
"You need my account number? Oh, let me get it, please. No, I insist! I'll look it up."
Last week I was on the phone with my Internet service provider that has been double billing me for six months. After three phone calls the problem finally seemed resolved. The service rep, who had apologized for my wait when he picked up the phone, was now asking if there was anything else he could do.
I was tempted to deliver a small recap of the ease at which they messed up the bill compared to the difficulty they had straightening it out, when he kindly said again, "Is there anything else I can do for you today?"
"No. I'm fine. You've been very helpful; thank you."
Civility. Amazing how a little bit goes such a long way.
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© 2001, Lori Borgman
JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Pass the Faith, Please" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.
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