100_2161Last Friday, I was waiting on a package at the church.  Nothing unusual about that – just a normal Friday at the office.  I had tracked it, and it was supposed to be delivered on Thursday, but then inexplainably it got “rescheduled” for Friday delivery.  OK, I can be patient.  Things happen.

So Friday I’m waiting.  And 5 p.m. rolls around, but no delivery.  I’m not happy, but what do you do.  So I go home, and then I check the delivery record.  It said “Driver attempted delivery at 5:16 p.m. but the office was closed.”  Our office hours are posted clearly and have been for decades.  Do you really think people are going to be there after hours?  So I called the 800 number.

I got a young lady from a call center in Las Vegas.  I explained my problem – that the package was now two days late and that deliveries lately have been attempted after our posted hours.  I tried to be as nice as I could be, but also firm that this was not acceptable and we needed to find a solution.  I asked how I could help solve this problem.  Her response: “well, the driver has until 8 p.m. to deliver it and it’s still considered on time. There’s really nothing I can do for you.”  I asked her, “so you expect businesses to stay open till 8 p.m. to receive deliveries?”  Her response: “well, the driver has until 8 p.m. to deliver it and it’s still considered on time.  There’s nothing I can do for you.”


I explained that this was not acceptable, and I asked to speak to her supervisor.  After several minutes of being on hold, I was connected. I explained my problem, and the supervisor said, “I’m so sorry that happened.  Let’s see how we can get your package to you and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”  Her tone conveyed concern and a desire to help, and she ensured that I got my package.  Not only that, but within 30 minutes of talking with her, I got two calls from employees at the local shipment center offering me their direct number if such a problem happens again, and apologizing profusely for their mistake.

After my conversation with the first call center representative, my problem then was not as much about not getting my package.  It was about how I was treated by the representative of this company.

Leaders, there is a critical leadership lesson here.

There’s always something you can do.

Your job and mine is to get on the solution side of the problem.  We have to listen – we have to understand the problem – we have to define reality.  But once defined, we have to get on the solution side and NEVER just leave it at “there’s nothing I can do for you.”  That’s not serving people; that’s reading a script, and that’s not leading.

Understand that our solution(s) may not be what the other person wants.  It might not be within our power or within the organization’s power or mission to do that.  But that doesn’t give us reason ever to treat them as less than a person of value to the organization or to us personally. I find it helpful to ask “what would you like me to do here?  How can I best address this or resolve this for you?  What do you see as a possible solution here?”  Those questions get to the solution side, and you might just find that the solution that they would like is possible.

One note too: this is not about complaint management.  Our job as leaders is not complaint management – not at all!  Our job as leaders is to LEAD.  John Ortberg has said it well: “over time, a church [or any organization] can drift from mission to complaint management.  Once that happens, you start to die.”  That drift is not what I’m advocating at all.  But HOW we lead matters too.  Leaders, our words matter.

I got my package on Saturday.  But more than that, I was treated as a valued customer whose concerns mattered.

Let’s lead that way.

Have you experienced a customer service conversation like this?  What would you add to my list of helpful questions to ask?



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