Staying Sane in Customer Service


If you ever have the choice of going to the Post Office or walking on broken glass, the latter may be more painful, but you’ll get the experience over with a lot faster with less mental anguish. But that’s just me.

It fell to me this past week to go to the Post Office to mail a package.  I won’t go into the boring details as to why we didn’t just use one of the other courier services, but suffice it to say they really weren’t options.  As I was standing there getting helped by one of the clerks, I was witness to a very strange vignette.  A woman, whom I’ll call Helen, walked up to the stall next to me and prepared to hand the clerk opposite her, whom I’ll call Sam, a package enclosed in one of their specialty envelopes.  Sensing the patron most likely wasn’t aware of what she had in her hand, the clerk just reminded her that she was using an overnight-delivery envelope, which carried with it a MUCH more expensive charge than a standard-delivery envelope.

The patron was a bit befuddled.  After pausing a moment to collect herself, she told the clerk that there weren’t any standard-delivery envelopes in the lobby area. While it’s very possible that the folks at the Post Office had forgotten to stock the shelves properly with the envelope Helen was seeking, I could tell by looking at Sam that he knew they weren’t out of stock – I think he was looking right at them. And then this happened:

Sam:  “Yes, there are.”

Helen:  “No, there aren’t.”

Sam:  “Yes, there are.”

Helen:  “No, there aren’t.”

Sam:  “Yes, there are.”

Helen:  “No, there aren’t.”

For the sake of brevity, I’ll end the dialogue here, but it went on far longer than any sane human being should have allowed until Helen finally found the over-abundant stock of standard-delivery envelopes.  I was getting ready to beat both Sam and Helen over the head, stuff them in the box I was mailing out of the country, and willingly pay whatever amount it would take to get them as far away from me as possible.

No matter how we dress it up with fancy titles and catch phrases, we’re in the customer service business just like Sam at the Post Office.  We deal with people every day who insist they know what they’re talking about (but who are DEAD wrong), so we have a choice: do we let this turn us into passive-aggressive drones because we know we’re right or do we choose to be helpful?

It’s possible that the US Postal Service hired Sam BECAUSE of his ability to engage with customers without being helpful, but something tells me Sam didn’t start out this way.  He could have easily locked eyes with Helen so she would stop insisting on something that was wrong, smiled at her, and helpfully pointed her to the standard-delivery envelopes.  It would have taken far less energy to do than the verbal tug-of-war I witnessed.

How often have we received an email or a text message from a client that was just plain wrong?  And how often have we insisted on sending back an electronic reply rather than picking up the phone and calling because we KNEW we were right but didn’t want to have to talk to them?  More often than not, we tell ourselves we do it because we want to avoid confrontation.  In reality, though, telling someone they’re wrong doesn’t have to be confrontational, and it may save your sanity regardless of how much the client drives you crazy!

customerservice, mortgage, prioritylending, realestate

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