It was a blistering cold morning when I locked my keys in my car. I had just left an appointment and mindlessly sealed my keys in the trunk. I stood in my client's driveway embarrassed, cold, and on track to be late to my next appointment.
My mind raced for a solution, and within a minute I had roadside assistance on the phone. They asked me to describe my situation. I quickly explained. I try to get straight to the point, especially when I'm freezing, feeling awkward, and running late.
"What's your policy number, sir?" I didn't know, because my insurance card was in the car.
"What's your last name?" She continued with a few more questions to find my account.
"What is the year, make, and model of your car?" I told her, realizing she was reading a script, wondering how much longer this would last.
"Okay, sir, how many miles do you have on your vehicle?" I answered, with rising frustration at the relevance of the question.
"Is your car front-wheel or rear-wheel drive?" At this point my body wasn't the only thing that was feeling cold. I snapped back, in hopes of interrupting a string of irrelevant questions and having my problem solved:
"How in the world is that a necessary question right now? I'm standing outside of my car freezing, and you're asking about my drive-train! I need someone to come unlock my car."
My outburst worked. The next thing out of her mouth was the answer I needed. Help was on the way. I would be texted the technician's name, number, estimated time of arrival, and a link to track his location. John, the friendly Pop-A-Lock guy, arrived quickly and I was on my way.
Time is our non-renewable resource. It's the great common denominator (previous post). Businesses rise and fall on their ability to solve specific problems in a timely manner.
I'm hungry. I'm locked outside of my car. I'm sick. I need a house. I have to travel to Boston.
The list of needs is endless. What's not endless is the patience of the customer. Businesses must get to the point, because there is always someone else who will try to replace you.
It's not just business, though. How often are we the bad customer service rep when our hearts are calling from the side of the road? And what do we ask? What to binge watch next on Netflix?
My heart is standing there frozen, immobilized, searching for a solution. Do I seek help or continue to pacify with distractions? Do I cope or cry out?
Can you imagine if, instead of taking action when I locked myself out, I pulled out a virtual reality headset while standing in the driveway? What if I stood there for hours, carried away in a fantasy world? Would it be fair to say I would get colder, not move an inch, and be no closer to solving my problem?
Escapism and distraction is easy, and I'm drawn to it as much as anyone else. I can truly get lost in a movie, a show, a book. But reality is still there when it's over, waiting to be served.
I realized today the point was much more than a critique of customer service. It was a wake up call for me to get to the point, because there is always something that will try to win my heart. And if not win, at least distract me from what matters the most.
Books I recommend: