The other day I was on the phone with Equifax
The fact that I was on the phone with them meant that something had already gone horribly wrong on their website.
I did everything I could to retain my composure, stay professional, and solve the problem as quickly as possible, despite my frustration.
“Hello thank you for calling Equifax, how may I help you?”
The agent that answered the phone was polite and professional, but her heavy accent and a few second delay made it difficult for me to understand her. I even found myself inadvertently talking over her several times.
“I’m sorry sir, but there is no way to complete this request on our website, or over the phone at this time. Would you like me to send you the forms to mail in your request?”
Uggghhhh! This kind of inefficiency irks my soul.
After 20 minutes of running around in circles, I finally hung up the phone in defeat.
Normally that would have been the end of it, but not this time.
My girlfriend overheard the entire conversation
Linda turned to me, and very calmly but firmly said:
“You were very rude to that woman.”
I immediately got defensive.
“No I wasn’t. I may have been assertive, but only because they are incompetent and I have to do their job for them.”
She proceeded to tell me how harsh my tone was, and that my “assertiveness” came off as arrogance and condescension.
Ouch. That was not easy to hear.
Surely my girlfriend had missed something, hadn’t she?
After all, I pride myself on being super nice, and leaving people better than I found them. That’s my thing! I took a break, and walked around my apartment.
I admit that I was direct, but they didn’t leave me any other choice. If I didn’t push for it, it would never have gotten done.
But then I realized something. It hadn’t gotten done. The issue was still unresolved.
At the height of my pride and self-righteousness, I had completely lost sight of one irrefutable fact…
My approach was ineffective
This woman, whom I had never met, and would never speak to again, had been the gatekeeper to solving my problem.
Instead of approaching her with kindness, respect, and collaboration, I mistreated the one person who actually had the power to help me.
I unwittingly collected every last drop of frustration, stress, and anger towards Equifax, and unfairly dumped it on her.
Be Kind to One Another
Ellen Degeneres was on to something when she first uttered these words.
As important as kindness is in general, it is perhaps nowhere more important than in customer service.
Customer service representatives spend most of their days day getting yelled at and berated by angry customers. Customers who blame them for their company’s mistakes, that they had absolutely nothing to do with.
The very LEAST I can do is be kind to them, especially since it may be the only positive interaction they will experience all day, or even all month.
Thank you Linda, for giving me the honest and uncomfortable feedback I needed to hear. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn, grow, and be better than I was yesterday.
A few days later I called Equifax back
I tried to get a hold of the same agent, but was only able to speak with her supervisor. I asked them to deliver a message:
“I am sorry for the way I treated you. You were patient, kind, and professional, even though I was arrogant, condescending, and rude. Thank you for your effort, support, and for doing a great job – I truly appreciate it.”
I will never know if that message got delivered.
However, here’s what I do know:
- The person directly in charge of this woman’s job was given direct and positive feedback about her performance and abilities.
- I acknowledged (with the help of my girlfriend) that I made a mistake, and know what to avoid next time.
- I shared this story with my friends & family, and am now sharing it publicly, in the hope that we can all step up our game and be kinder to one another.
Turning to you
Do you currently or have you ever worked in customer service, retail, or another service/hospitality industry? If so, what insights can you share to help us all be kinder to one another? If not, what did you learn from this post? Please share in the comments!
If you haven’t already, I invite you to sign up for my email list by creating a free ExcelShir account. You’ll get an assortment of wisdom tapas delivered straight to your inbox. Flavors include Excel shortcuts, business strategies, and life lessons. Bon appetit! 🙂