Never Let Them Push You Around

Out of everything I learned while answering phones at my first office job, this one might be the most important:

It IS POSSIBLE to provide excellent customer service, to be as courteous and polite and possible, and still NOT be pushed around. By anybody.

To many, what I’m about to demonstrate probably seems as natural as the sun coming up. Not to me. I guess I’m a computer geek true and true. Binary thinking. To my teenage brain, you were constantly playing one of two roles: Either you were dominant and in charge, or you were subordinate and you followed orders.

Answering phones with Colleen taught me a different reality.

Colleen was analogue thinking all the way. I dig analogue thinkers. They tend to have sneaky-smarts. Emotional IQ. Etc. I digress.

Colleen would take a call from a huge client who Absolutely, Positively needed to speak to the sales manager Right-The-F-Now. Or else.

Only the sales manager was behind and he needed an hour to finish a presentation that would show Mr. Huge Client why he absolutely positively needed to stay with us. He needed you to get that whale client to accept that he was in a meeting, an urgent meeting, a meeting that could not be interupted for anything. And to agree to wait for a call back. And don’t piss him off!

And if it was me who answered the call? Wow, that would be a tough one. Here’s Mr. Client and I know he’s super important and he’s super steamed. And the sales manager is 20 feet away from me, mouthing ONE HOUR with one finger held in the air, and I have to simulataneously take charge of the conversation and get that hour for my guy, all the while maintaining a sky-high level of cordiality with Mr. Client and leaving Mr. Client feeling like I was doing him a favor by scheduling an exact time when my guy would call him back? HOLY CRAP!

At the moment what would go through my head was this: How in the hell is the least experienced, lowest paid person in the entire company at this moment being put in the most stressful, most complex, most difficult, most crucial position while around him tens of millions of dollars of compensation and talent are going about their work days?

But that’s another story…

The point of this one is: Colleen, my partner, my cohort on the reception desk. Colleen would, I would say 99 times out of 100, see that call coming in and make sure that she grabbed it.

And Colleen would proceed to demonstrate for me the art, the science, the merging of art and science of simultaneously being as demure and pleasing as possible while also remaining in full full FULL control of a conversation.

Colleen would get that hour for the sales manager. The huge client would hang up thinking he had just spoken to the angels and they had rearranged the heavens to schedule a prompt meeting with Him. My jaw would hit my lap, sure as if my buddy had just come all the way back from 1 hit point left in Mortal Kombat to beat me.

Man on the moon. Montana to Clark. Give them what they want, but DO NOT let them push you around. Ever.