Monday, April 04, 2005

Customer service

Our firm just returned from its annual retreat to Branson, MO. Instead of seeing Shoji Tabuchi and Yakov Smirnoff, we talked about client relationships and the state of customer service. Two days of reflection on the ways we interact with our clients, the unfortunately low expectations society now has for customer service and ways we can do our part to raise those expectations.

I'm going to write more about this topic, but wanted to pass on an experience that highlighted an important takeaway from our retreat discussion: take the time to explain the route, even when it's easier to state the result.

My washing machine stopped spinning last week, forcing me to wring out sopping wet shirts before throwing them into the dryer. When the novelty of this wore off, I called the GE maintenance shop and scheduled an appointment. The repairman arrived this morning and immediately knew what was wrong: The toggle switch that presses the thingy down when the door is closed fell off (ironically, he found it in the tub), thus failing to tell the spin function that my hand/head/dog was not inside the tub and it could begin spinning at a high rate of speed. Easy enough.

I went to the other room to continue working. When he was finished, he called me over and went through the features of my washing machine, showed me some troubleshooting maneuvers in case x, y or z happened, then showed me how he fixed the toggle switch.

As most people know, my attention span is small. I had coffee brewing and an e-mail draft to complete, and I really didn't care how he fixed it, or how I might clean out the tub if it were to clog. Then I realized that this interaction was a perfect example of good client communication.

Yes, it would have been faster and easier for him to say, "Your washer is fixed, have a good day." But I wouldn't write a blog about that. Instead, his explanation of how he arrived at the solution and his time spent on the extras made me feel good, smarter and like a valued client in his day of multiple-appliance repairs.

A gentle Monday reminder of a mentality to live by: don't just state the result, explain the route.


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