Learning How To Handle Difficult Service Situations

Another in a series on My Journey to the Golden Rule.

At the Faculty-Staff Help Desk we learned quickly which faculty members were savvy and which were not. Even if the most difficult professor popped up on the phone screen, we had to take the call and help. We had to love it and be nice to them. If a problem went outside of our ability or scope, we would pass it to the full time staff who handled specific departments. Occasionally I would go out to a professor’s office, but not often. I like to think I did my job well since I was placed in charge of this team for a year. It was great because I knew my team well, they were my friends, and I could trust them to do the job.

On the Tech Desk we had our share of difficult people, but there is only one incident stands out in my mind. I was on duty with my friend. She was taking calls while I was trying to get one of our computers working. I could tell her call was not going well, but couldn’t quite figure out why since she was giving him the right instructions. She finally gave up and asked me to get on the phone when the caller requested someone else. I picked up, introduced myself and asked how I could help. In a few seconds, I realized the issue: he was unused to a woman helping him. He immediately let me help him to the same solution. I wasn’t rude or angry; I helped him. But I was surprised that he would put on a sexist act for it. I would like to say I made him apologize for rudeness, but I’m not sure that would have helped. What would you have done? Tell us below in the comments!

Golden Rule Lesson: That incident highlighted what I knew already: customer service is two ways. So is the Golden Rule. If you call a company seeking help, that does not give you a right to be rude or insulting. Treating people the way you want to be treated in the same situation means being pleasant to the person who can help just as much as the helper should be pleasant. I knew enough to avoid a tit-for-tat situation with the caller; it was my role to help him. At the same time, there is no reason I was going to let him continue with his attitude, which was clearly in the way of getting him the help he wanted.

Remember that your attitude toward your customer service person may be your biggest impediment to receiving the help or solution you want. Most service people enjoy helping you reach the result you want, so help them help you with the right attitude.

For senior year, I was able to run the entire student team with up to 18 people. I made mistakes managing the team to bring up the younger staff as well as keep up our reputation for quality service. If I were running a Help Desk today, I would spend time with the new staff and the managers to instill a stronger sense of what service meant, rather than just technical skills.

What we did well though, was manage the caseload. Usually the heaviest load is the first month of the school year. People move dorms and new students bring in computers not quite ready for prime time. After the initial tumult of opening week, I realized there were over 60 tickets waiting to be assigned to a consultant. Wow. How did that happen?

I dug into the tickets and started calling everyone on the list. Part of exercising quality service is speed. If you wait a month to help someone, they will find another solution. To me, even at a university, that meant someone who would be dissatisfied with the Help Desk, lowering our word of mouth rating. I wanted to be responsive because that’s what I would expect from others. Fortunately, we were able to resolve nearly every ticket within a few days thanks to diligent follow up.

Golden Rule Lesson: speed matters because you would want your problems solved when you need them, not when someone else gets around to it.

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“Learning How To Handle Difficult Service Situations”

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