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I’m selling some rental property this month so have been working with realtors, banks, title companies, and utility/communication companies.   As I write this, I’m hoping to keep my frustration to a minimum, but, as you can imagine, I have had lots of interesting customer service experiences.

I’ve had a variety of different “touchpoints” –chat, email, & phone. My goal in these interactions was usually focused on efficiency.  I knew what I wanted, and I wanted it handled quickly.  That’s not always the best goal, but I’m a Maximizer AND an Arranger, so it’s always at the forefront of my mind.  Let’s just say that most of my recent experiences did not end with any sort of efficiency.  For some of these I was the buyer of services and for some I was cancelling; yet, my experiences were no more positive regardless of my role. Throughout, though, I continued to think of the question, “how easy do we make it for our customers and clients?”

To share a positive example, I called Semco Energy in Michigan.  I told them I was selling a rental property on August 14th, needed to cancel service, and was prepared with the property address and account number.  I was on the phone less than a minute and had a pleasant conversation. We were both prepared, seemed to have high expectations of quick and pleasant service, and both of us seemed pleased with the results.  Of course, the customer service provider might have been disappointed to lose me as a customer but I did tell her the new owners would be calling to transfer service; so, everyone was happy.

In other transactions I repeated the effective date and the address numerous times, they tried several different ways to sell me new services and /or to transfer service even though I explained up front that this was a rental property and that I, personally, was not moving.  For some, they were definitely reading a script that had to be checked off regardless of what I shared.  I found that extremely frustrating.

Based on this, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on customer/vendor interactions:

  1. Regardless of whether you fill an internal or external role, we all have customers. Help the interaction by setting expectations up front.

E.g.  I have several questions for you; I’m sorry to have you repeat the address again but it clears automatically on my screen; thank you for being patient while my computer updates; this will take x amount of time, does that work for you right now?  I won’t be able to work on this until x.

  1. Whether you are the buyer or seller of services or products, we all have expectations, but do you share them?

E.g.  I only have a few minutes, will we be able to complete this quickly? What information will you need from me so that I can be prepared? I need this information by x, will you be able to accommodate that?  Tell me your goal or here is the goal.

  1. Do you think about the other side?

I’m backed up; I don’t have time; I don’t like to work on this project vs. asking when does my customer need this or letting the customer know the schedule. Do I make it easy for applicants to apply online?  Am I responsive to others?

Many of my interactions followed up with a customer survey to obtain my feedback on their customer service.  I responded to most of them and gave a fair assessment of my experience; the ones I did not complete were because I felt they made it too complicated (too slow, too long, etc.), which went right along with my initial experience with them.  It’s been over a week, and no one has followed up with me on the ones where I rated them very poorly (by the way, I didn’t rate any person poorly, just the systems and processes).

I hope that your interactions with Purple Ink are positive ones.  That is one of our core values and a part of our Purple Ink promise; if it’s not, I’d like to hear about it.

If better expectations were set – on both sides – of my recent interactions, I would have been a whole lot less frustrated and we both would have had much more positive experiences.  If I think it will take less than a minute and it takes 5, I’m disappointed and frustrated, but if they tell me it will take 5, then I can be prepared.

Expressing or requesting clear expectations is a skill that can help us in all areas of our lives – developing relationships, parenting, providing feedback, and growing as a leader.  I think most of us are pretty good at setting them. It’s sharing them that we can work on.

JoDee Curtis
JoDee Curtis
JoDee Curtis is the Founder of Purple Ink, Powered by Purple Ink, and the ink pad, author of four books in the JoyPowered® series, and co-host of The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast. She has a passion for helping organizations and individuals discover their talents, do more of what they do well through her speaking and training, and find joy in their work.

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