Sometimes we don’t appreciate something until it’s gone.
Since moving back to my childhood home last November I have experienced extraordinary service. Not just good customer service, but truly exceptional service.
For example, a few days after moving back my cable television and internet service went kaput. Since it was Thanksgiving Day I called the telephone company, which provides those services, expecting to get a recording and hoping to get my name on a list for service the next day. My first surprise was when a real person answered the phone. It startled me so much I almost hung up, but I’m glad I didn’t, because not only was the voice real, but after hearing my problem I was told a technician would be right out. I explained I could live without television or internet until morning, but she insisted and within 20 minutes someone was at my door! The technician worked several hours until he located the problem and fixed it, at no charge to me.
My previous satellite television company would have promised service sometime in the next couple weeks or so and then, because I had not had the foresight to purchase their “insurance” would have charged $100 for coming out, in addition to whatever they charged for actually fixing the problem. And with my previous telephone/internet company I would likely still be trapped in their endless computer loop, trying to determine which button to push to get placed on a list for service at some point down the road…a long road, with few real people available to help you.
Another example of the level of service I’ve come to expect was provided when I needed to replace a couple tires on my car. I called the local tire and muffler shop, CR’s, and was told the “tire guy” was back from lunch at 2 and to show up then. When I did I was greeted at the door and picked out my new tires without being pressured into buying more than I needed. Since I knew I would be waiting while the tires were put on the car, I had taken a plethora of reading materials to help me fill the time. I barely got the first magazine open before the job was completed and I was heading home, marveling at the efficient and prompt service I had received.
This level of caring customer service quickly became the norm, so I began to expect it. That’s the thing about expectations and taking things for granted. At some point, you will likely experience the opposite, and this run of extraordinary and caring service ended this last week.
When my water line developed a leak past business hours, I planned on catching the water in a bucket and dealing with it as best I could until the next morning. But within a couple hours the leak became unmanageable and was soon flooding the backroom of my basement. I had to do something, so I called the “emergency number” provided by my rural water district to ask for assistance in turning the water off to my house. I was told I’d have to turn the meter off myself. It didn’t matter that I was without the needed tools to do so, or that I had, in fact, already tried to turn it off to no avail. The guy was not budging and pointedly informed me that it was past his business hours, he was comfortably at home and he expected me to take care of the problem myself. Case closed.
Now, let me reiterate, this was the person at the other end of the “emergency number.” This was the person who is paid to maintain the system and I assumed, apparently mistakenly, to assist the district’s customers when they experienced problems.
Fortunately a neighbor drove by and noticing me ass up, half submerged in the tube housing my water meter, stopped to help. If he had not done so, I have no idea what shape my basement would have been in by morning. I also have no idea what elderly water district customers, or anyone else in need of help, would have done in this situation, but I find the prospect that they might be treated as I was frightening.
The irony of this is that if this guy had offered to help, it would have taken him no more than 30 minutes of his time, for which I would have happily compensated him and the water district, and he, as well as his employer, would have had a cheerleader for life. I would have enthusiastically touted the district’s service and this man’s dedication to serving and helping its customers. As it is, the story I am left to tell is of someone who not only missed a chance for invaluable public relations for the organization for which he works, but also missed an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment, or even an interest in, helping others in a time of need.
Sometimes companies and organizations, as well as we as human beings, get one chance to win someone’s loyalty and to instill a feeling of confidence and compassion. If we miss it, it may take a long time, if not forever, to gain that person’s trust and loyalty back. Of course, the rural water district doesn’t compete for customers like other businesses and the person at the other end of the “emergency number” was obviously not the least bit concerned about the image he was portraying of the district or himself, or the level of service to which they are dedicated. When you are basically functioning as a monopoly I guess you don’t have to be that concerned about whether your customers are satisfied with you or not.
But, I did receive a very valuable gift from this experience. And that was, that by experiencing, what was in my opinion, substandard and inconsiderate service it has provided the contrast which allows me to more fully value the times when I receive good, caring and respectful treatment.
It’s true; sometimes we really don’t know what we have until we no longer have it.