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Customers: Consider circumstances before judging service

Customer service presents is every bit as important this holiday season as customer service presence. Customer service needs to be present and accounted for whenever and wherever possible. But, at this particular time of this particularly challenging and anxious year, it’s time for both customers and customer service reps to give presents—in the form of kindness, understanding, and cutting people a break.

Mark Lusky

I had a very trying customer service experience this past week. The name of the firm involved doesn’t matter, because what I believe happened here is epidemic across corporate America: Too much demand, too little supply.

For a variety of reasons ranging from pandemic hangover to the Great Resignation, companies are scrambling to do too much with too few qualified resources. My recent experience is a case in point. After multiple fruitless attempts to resolve an account service challenge, I got a call from an incredibly thoughtful, caring manager—from a different division of the company than the one I had attempted to contact.

When I asked why she was calling back given that this wasn’t her department, she essentially said, “You don’t have enough time to hear the long story.” Clearly, there has been a major disturbance in the force and she got to be the designated hitter to sort part of it out. After saying and, I believe, trying to do all the right things and giving assurance this would be resolved, she disappeared again.

I thought about it. I truly believe that she planned a quick response, but yet another burden put on her plate was one too many. Perhaps I will get resolution Monday. I already have a Plan B, so the issue is moot at this point.

Normally, I would be livid, both with the company and the manager who didn’t fulfill a commitment. But, I’m not. My gut feeling is that she’s stretched beyond her limits, and while wanting to dot all I’s and cross all T’s, she simply doesn’t have the bandwidth.

I’m giving her a mulligan, in the name of Customer Presents this holiday season. I hope that customers and customer service reps everywhere will try to show kindness and caring as well. While the company behind this gaffe needs to be held accountable, I’m not going to pile all of that on the head of one seemingly very well-intentioned person.

Instead, I will reach back out to her and proceed with Plan B while I await response and resolution to the matter I called about originally.

She kept apologizing for the problems. I kept saying “thank you” and told her there was no need to keep apologizing. She didn’t create the problem. Clearly, her company, just like so many others across the US, is messed up—and needs to do some serious remediation.

Let’s all make an effort to bestow Customer Presents when we can this holiday season. Cut a break to someone on the other side of the customer service interaction when possible. In this incredibly difficult year and with no solid predictability about what next year will bring, let’s all stop, take a breath, and show our ability to understand and empathize.

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