In somebody else's shoes

It wasn't sitting well with me. I knew that from the moment I hung up the phone. There was something about the interchange that "left money on the table" as my dad used to say. While the conversation itself left me with the feeling that I could have been sharper and I was disappointed in myself for not asking better questions or not having adequate repartee, I knew that a little reflection by me was in order. I'm stronger after reflection.

Sure enough, in a couple days I awoke at one of those awful 3:12 a.m. can't-sleep-anymore times. So I just got up, gathered my account paperwork, and called customer service. Let's try this again.

Instead of the usual holding pattern, this time my call went right through to a pleasant-sounding customer rep. After some small talk about the early time of day (me) and the weather (him), we got down to business. I explained that I had called a few days earlier about my bill which had increased by 22 percent over the prior month — without warning! — and that I wasn't satisfied with the solution the prior phone rep offered or her comment: "You're already at our lowest pricing so you'll just have to realize you've got a good deal." I explained to the new rep that I thought the increase was way too steep and surely there must be a less expensive alternative.

So he asked several questions that told me he was truly looking for an alternative. It wasn't long and he discovered what was going on with my account, he asked a few more questions, and he proposed an acceptable solution. Once I said I was open to his idea, he talked through the details to be sure that everything he proposed was workable. It was. He had found a way to maintain service and to decrease the monthly charge.

Overjoyed, I thanked him profusely and told him how much I appreciated the careful way he handled my call. He said, "Ma'am, at the end of the day, I go home and I'm a customer, too. We all want and deserve the same thing: the best service anyone can give. That's all I try to do."

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati Ohio.]

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