Monday, August 9, 2010

Shattering Expectations

If you spend much time at all being trained as a contact center customer service representative, or training customer service representatives, you will hear about "smile mirrors."  The idea is that you watch yourself in the mirror, to make sure you are smiling, so that the customer can "hear the smile in your voice."

This example is from http://www.trainerswarehouse.com/.
If I had a smile mirror at my desk, it would have shattered into pieces after a recent interaction between a customer and me.  I lost my cool, attracting the attention of our Executive Director, probably earning my way onto the customer's next missive to her legislator, and obtaining for myself material for a blog that I would rather not write.

I write about this incident because:

a) Many of my readers give me good ideas (and if nothing else help me regain perspective)
b) I needed to confess this ultimate of customer service transgressions
c) For all the posts I write singing the praises of fantastic customer service or grousing about mediocre customer service, this incident was a reminder to me that everyone has their highs and lows
d) The irony was not at all lost on me that Dan Rockwell, the "Leadership Freak", had just invited me to send in a picture and a bio so I could be included on his "Featured Bloggers" page (fortunately, he understands being human.)

I have helped talk people down from suicidal moments, as a volunteer counselor, trainer, and on-call supervisor for Telephone Counseling and Referral Service (now Big Bend 211).  In this case, my coworker and I had been dealing with Mrs. "X" for weeks.  The situation was complex and made more complex by the fact that many different entities had been enlisted by Mrs. "X" to help solve the problem.  Mrs. "X" did not represent the situation accurately, and it quickly escalated into a situation where the grease would be liberally doled out for the squeakiest of wheels.  In the buildup to "the hangup", my coworker had explained the situation to Mrs. "X," who stated I had told her otherwise.  When I came out of a meeting, my coworker advised me that Mrs. "X" still disagreed.  I left her a message outlining the bare bones of our answer, reiterating the position that I had held all along.  When caller ID showed that she was calling in, one minute before I had to leave to pick up my son from a camp with an immovable end time, I answered and explained that I had an obligation outside of the office and offered to speak with her at length the following morning.  She proceeded to state everything that "I" had told her, statements which were the absolute opposite of what I had said.  After attempting to calmly explain what I had stated, repeatedly, the combination of having my integrity questioned (by the way, here's where the fictional mirror would have started to crack), knowing the background facts of a web of untruths on the customer's part that had gotten us to this situation, a couple of stressors outside the office that were nagging at me and the ticking clock reminding me exactly how late I was to pick up my son, that I hung up on this caller.  Yes, I did.  I am not proud.  And I called her back to apologize (like I told our ED I would do after his visit to me). 

I would have been better off letting the call go to voice mail.  After several weeks working with this individual on her issue, there was nothing I could have said in our conversation that would have changed anything, nothing that could not have waited until the next morning.  I would have been better off reminding myself that the fact that a caller is questioning my integrity over and over doesn't mean I don't have integrity. 

Leann Rimes tweeted this tonight:  Our fingerprints don't fade from the lives we touch (source unknown).

I'm afraid in this case I left more than a fingerprint - on her and on me.

What are some options in a situation like this?  What would your mirror reflect?

Thanks for the cyber-ear tonight, readers!  I will look forward to "running" into you next week!

1 comment:

Susan Fields said...

We all have bad days, Paula! I'm sure my mirror would have shattered. :)