Making Someone's Day: A Customer Service Story

Chances are, at some point, you have found yourself talking to a customer-facing individual who seems grouchy or unengaged. It’s quite easy to say to ourselves “they are supposed to be kind to me, they are in customer service!”, and respond in kind with a lack of engagement or grouchiness of our own. This typically leads to an ineffective, if not unpleasant, encounter.

Allow me to share an example of how responding differently can have a massive impact on both parties.

A delightful and spunky 84-year-old woman named Beverly called the local newspaper to ask what the cost of an obituary was (the purpose of this call was to prove her sister wrong in a dispute they were having about the cost of an obituary). The young man that answered was in a bit of a sour mood and clearly not totally invested in the conversation.

After asking about the policy and receiving a short, brisque response, the following conversation ensued:

Beverly:  “May I say… you seem to be in a bad mood.”

Newspaper employee: “Yes… just a lot of things going on here.”

Beverly: “So is it the local mayor’s race?” (a contentious mayoral race was in play at the time)

 Newspaper employee: “No….”

Beverly: “So is it Donald Trump and no evidence of bad actions on his part? Is that what has you upset?” (Mueller had just said he did not find any evidence of collusion from the Trump campaign)

Newspaper employee: “No….”

Beverly: “You know, when I got up this morning, I knew less than I know now after I have spoken with you. And that means a lot to me. See, it’s still the morning and you’ve already been successful today!”

Newspaper employee:  (brightening in his tone of voice)  “Oh…why yes, I suppose you’re right!”

After that, they exchanged pleasantries and parted ways.

Whether or not Beverly engaged in this conversation, she would have walked away with the relevant information. You could consider that a successful customer service interaction.

But think about the impact this had on both of them! The young man at the newspaper left the conversation audibly happier (and we can assume psychologically more satisfied) than he was at the beginning of the conversation. Beverly left the conversation feeling brighter as well, knowing that she had helped to make someone else’s day a little better.