Installments: Twisting in the wind

Home Columns Installments: Twisting in the wind

Oct. 7/14 2013; Volume 27/number 12

By David Stafford

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David Stafford

This is exactly how I felt while awaiting the arrival of a service technician: No longer was I the master of my day. I could not take care of other pressing matters since I had to “be available” whenever it struck his fancy to show up.

Having worked with installation scenarios for over 20 years, I am well aware of how quickly the best-laid plans can change. I have been on the receiving end of the conversation with excitable, frustrated clients. After today, I have a much better appreciation of why they were so angry.

First off, I had a billing issue with a national service provider; they addressed the problem and offered me a free upgrade with the newest, latest, greatest equipment to help make amends. However, the product “has to be delivered and set up by our installer.” They were completely booked, so the service date was scheduled some 10 days out.

Before the installation day, I received two automated phone calls and two emails reminding me of the scheduled arrival along with the fact I must be available. I selected the a.m. time slot—8 a.m. to noon. The morning of the appointment, still another automated call, letting me know the technician would call shortly before arrival. OK, fine so far. At about 10 a.m., still another automated call letting me know the technician would be calling. By 11:30 a.m., still no technician but an automated phone call saying “our technician is running late and will arrive this afternoon; if you’d like to reschedule, press 1.”

I figured, “OK, I’ll just get some lunch and they’ll be here soon.” Around 1 p.m., I finally received a call from a live person. “We won’t be able to get to your appointment today; we don’t have a technician to send. How about we reschedule this next week?” At this point, I lost my temper (just a little) suggesting he “find a way to get someone here tomorrow morning.” When they proffered the same four-hour window, I balked. Then they agreed I would be the “first stop”—between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., guaranteed. I was mollified.

After another litany of automated phone calls—warning me to be available—I was waiting. I continued to wait until 11:45 a.m. when I got the dreaded call: “Our technician is running late but will arrive this afternoon, press 1 to reschedule.” At this point, the veins were bulging out of my neck, and I placed a call to the national customer service. I related the whole sorry saga, apologies were made, but nothing really happened. “You’ll receive a phone call within 20 minutes (from a human).” While waiting, I got another automated call about the technician running late…see you this afternoon…press 1 to cancel.

Finally a human did call, but it was to tell me that “the technician would be calling before arrival,” no timeline. At 2:15 p.m., the technician called to say, “I am 13 minutes from your location.” When he showed up, he proceeded to tell me how bad his day had been. I didn’t have the heart to tell him about mine.

Here are some suggestions for you in cultivating happy clients:

•If you know there’s going to be a problem, don’t rely only on automated phone calls. Let the client know by the middle of the installation arrival window if there’s going to be a problem rather than the end.

•If you do have to reschedule, commit to a smaller arrival window, treat it as a priority, then stick to it. Find a way to compensate the client for HER time in a tangible way.

•Remember the adage, “It is not that you had a problem, it’s how quickly you fixed it that is important.”

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