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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Today's Object Lesson in Customer Service and Management

Object Lesson n.
1. a convincing demonstration of some principle or ideal
2. (Social Science / Education) (esp formerly) a lesson in which a material object forms the basis of the teaching and is available to be inspected
(from The Free Dictionary)


The short story: I am moving in May, and finally decided to get a bank account that's local, since I've been out-of-state banking since I left Kentucky in 2007. This, of course, meant that that I've had to change all of my autodrafts to the new checking account. Not a big deal, right? Well, only kind of right. Apparently Regions Bank is still in the Dark Ages. To change your autodraft for an auto loan, you have to call. Then they mail you a form. Then you mail it back. Then it takes them up to 16 days to change your info. (Ernk - how come it only takes Progressive two days after I change it all myself online?)


Back to the lesson. I called Regions on February 8th to get the account switch done. They said the fax would arrive in 24-48 hours (since apparently they put in a ticket and faxes are sent from elsewhere). No fax ever received. I call again on the 16th a little antsy, since I want to be sure everything is set up by the draft date of the 1st. This person assures me they have put in the ticket to have the fax sent. By the 18th? Still no fax.


So today I call again, a wee bit upset. The operator tells me she will put in another ticket, and I interrupted her to ask why I should think the result would be any different. I went on to vent - the way customers do - about my frustration that something so simple should be so onerous. Couldn't she just enter my routing number and checking into the system? (Nope, no access to that.) Couldn't she just get up and fax me the form? (No, she did not have access to the form, wasn't allowed to print things from her station, and had no fax machine in her area.)


Who is fuming? *I* am fuming. I apologized for being so gruff, since I knew it wasn't her fault. But what a craptastic setup. And how was this going to get done in time for me to make my bill cycle? The very nice lady put me on hold.


When she returned a few minutes later, she had finagled the form from someone in another office. We filled it out over the phone, and then she had to ask her supervisor to print it. Her supervisor was on the phone, so she promised me I would receive it within the hour, and that if it wasn't done by then she would fax it to me on her break.


I don't know what kind of hoops this woman had to jump through to get to the materials that the customers calling her actually needed. It sounded like a few, and that corporate would probably frown on it. I thanked her profusely (after asking her to NOT work on her break), and promised to write a letter about her great service.


And I did. Write the letter, I mean. How often do we intend to do something like that, and it gets put off until we forget about it and it stays lost? I was so fired up about the ridonkulousness of the situation, and so pleased with her initiative, that I called the corporate communications office to ask which addresses would be best to send the letter to. I got the addresses for the operator's call center manager and for the corporate CEO. The letters are written and enveloped. And surprisingly, I feel better than I have in weeks, hoping this will go into her personnel file, hoping that she will be recognized for great customer service, and hoping that corporate will understand that policies that make deliberate, unnecessary separations between work make for a crappy customer experience and rough work for your customer service center team, who didn't write those crappy policies.


Object lesson #1: This entire experience was a convincing demonstration of how some people will go above and beyond the requirements of their position to give good customer service. Thank goodness for these people. These people should be rewarded.


Object lesson #2: This experience was a convincing demonstration of how development of policy by people who do not understand the integrated working of customer service can turn into a disaster. It can create artificial separation of work, which delays service unnecessarily. It was also a great example of how making things difficult for the customer makes things, in turn, difficult for your staff.


Object lesson #3: Send thank yous into the world for work well done. Writing that letter commending my operator made me feel good. better, in fact, than I have felt in a few weeks. It made me hope it would be added to her file as an example of great service. It made me hope that getting a letter would make her feel good about the work that she does, and that perhaps it'll goose her supervisor into appreciating her more (if she's not already appreciated). I thought about how I, as a supervisor, feel when I get such letters about my staff. And now I have the warm fuzzies thinking that maybe, even though it's just a simple little letter, it'll make someone's day and show them that YES, good customer service is noticed, and appreciated.


And so, I leave you with some questions. What policies and procedures are libraries hanging on to that it more - instead of less - difficult for our patrons to get the service they want and expect? What are we doing as managers that contributes to these problems? More importantly, when was the last time we looked at how our policies and procedures impact both staff and patrons, and decided to revamp things to make everyone happier? Are we involving our staff - who likely know best what issues come up often during the provision of service - how things might be redesigned for both better service and a more integrated workplace?

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