Monday, 22 July 2013

"We Will Call You Back"

Since when have customer service operations started putting a customer on hold for up to an hour and offering to call back?  Here is the scenario.

I got a call from American Airlines this morning saying that an upgrade request for an upcoming trip has been confirmed and I am to call an 800 number to determine which account the miles should be taken from and what credit card I want to use for the surcharge of $350.  So, this evening I pick up the phone dial the number provided and get the message about wait time between one hour and one hour and ten minutes.  How the hell do they know that?  I did not leave my number to call back and I was not going to be on hold for an hour.  Instead I dialed another American number I keep on my phone and the wait time for that number is only twenty-three minutes.  Same deal.  I can hold or leave a number and they will call me back.  I left my number and will write this while I wait.

I am working with a publishing company on a manuscript and if I sign in to their web site and leave my phone number, my phone rings immediately and someone answers on the other end.  All I do is give them my account number and either that person can give me the information I need or they transfer me immediately to someone else who has the answer or information I need.  I don't know who is bigger, Amazon or American Airlines, and it makes no difference to me.  What does make the difference is the way they treat their customers who are willing to spend real money for their services.

The best response is when you call a number and a real person answers, not some recording offering a menu of choices from one through eight for various departments.  Oh yes, if you know the extension of the person you're calling, you can punch that in and most often get a recording telling you how important the call is.  I like the real person on the other end, flesh and blood and brains, and we often get along famously because I'm in a good mood.  Some human being, usually with sufficient knowledge, has answered in real time and I don't have to waste time waiting, calling back or waiting to be called back.

Enough already.  I am going to start rating customer service based on how the company deals with telephone calls and I will rate them from one to ten, one being the absolute worst and ten being the best.  Once a company gets three ones, unless it's a local utility, most of which are not very good although better than average, I will look elsewhere for a place to take my business where I at least have the distinct impression that they really do care about their customers.   Some places even know my name without my having to provide the city where I was born and my mother's maiden name.
Those places go to the top of my list.  No wonder there are big companies having problems competing in today's marketplace.  American Airlines isn't the only carrier that goes across the pond. They haven't called back as yet.

How would you rate your own company, organization or group?  How do you think others would rate you?  Are you willing to find out?  Go ahead, ask!

Monday, 8 July 2013


Margaret Wheatley has published an excerpt from her new book, So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World, published by Berrett Koehler.  I haven’t read the book but I read the excerpt called “8 Fearless Questions.” You can read it here for yourself here and see what you think :

What follows is what it spawned in my early morning thoughts on this day.  I picked up two questions that I wanted to address briefly and they are these: What do you call yourself and what is the relationship between hope and fear?  These can be two essential, defining questions and your answers may reveal a lot about who you are and what you are about.

Each of us has a name by which we have become known, a name given to us by our parents, a name sometimes chosen at random, or from a list of popular baby names, sometimes by family traditions, and sometimes with special meaning.  In some cultures a name has particular significance with regard to a blessing or something sacred.  Indigenous people seemed a whole lot better at this, maybe because they lived closer to nature?

Beyond a given name however, what do you call yourself as some kind of identification? It may have to do with your role as a worker, as some kind of survivor, as a citizen of a particular nation or the member of a group or association. It could be one of the big 8 social identifiers such as ability (physical and mental), age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation. Think for a moment how circumscribed those may be or how limiting. Is "writer" or "author" sufficient?  Even the word "American" can be controversial because when we are south of the border we are "Norte Americanos" and technically so are the Mexican people because they are still north of Central and South America.  Some people were identified as members of a particular tribe, a social division of families or communities with a lot in common.  Occupation or vocation? 

Rather than define ourselves by what we do, how about defining ourselves by who we are, our essential nature as human beings rather than human doings?  The essence or ground of our being brings to mind the writings and work of Paul Tillich, especially in The Shaking of the Foundations, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955. 

 "The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him…. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not."  

 Perhaps we can call ourselves “believers” and that would require more discussion about where we place that belief.  As Tillich says, what is our ultimate concern, the depth of our life, our passion?  What are we to be about?  Suffice to say here that the next question may shed some light on this first one about what are we to call ourselves.

The second question has to do with the relationship between hope and fear.  What I have said for a long time is that faith and fear are perfectly correlated, inversely.  The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.  What if we were less invested in the outcome and more present and invested in the process, in the present moment?  Would that have any effect on our behavior?  On our choices?  On our relationships with our work and our colleagues?  On our connections with family, friends and neighbors?   I hope that, at the least, we believe in who we are and what we’re doing and that who we are defines what we do rather than what we do defining who we are.  Think about that!

Margaret Wheatley, in the excerpt noted at the beginning of this piece, has quite a lot to say about working beyond hope and fear, of living in the future now.  How about going beyond work and seeing what it is that motivates us to even consider the kind of work that we want to be about?  How about forming your own essential questions that define you?   If you come up with one or two that you find particularly helpful, I would be most interested in knowing what those are.  I chose my two questions based on what it was that moved me this morning to consider my continuing learning more about who I am and what I want to be about, today and all that may follow.  If you have gotten this far, let me know what you find to be your essential questions.  Thanks!