I had just finished setting up my computer and extra monitor in the office I rent to produce webinars. With about 30 minutes to go before our event, Nancy called me on the office phone for our daily meeting.
“Good morning,” I said.
But instead of the usual, “Good morning, how are you?” reply, I was met with silence.
“Hello? Hello?” I said over and over again, but to no avail.
Over the next few minutes Nancy tried calling again and again, but I still couldn’t hear her.
Then I tried calling out on the phone and couldn’t even get a connection. Tick tock, tick tock, I heard in the back of my brain, as our webinar start time approached. This was a problem.
As some background, I have an office rental agreement with a large company. They rent out space from office buildings and, in turn, sublet that space in a variety of ways to folks like me. My current arrangement gives me an office whenever I need it. When I come in, they put me in an open spot.
This all works out wonderfully if the door closes (usually not a problem) and the internet and phone services function properly. So when I discovered a short time before our webinar go-live that my phone was not, in fact, functioning, I wasn’t happy. Oh, and let me just add in this little nugget of information — cell service stinks in the building, so jumping on my mobile wasn’t really a good option.
So, with all this in mind and the clock ticking, I hot-footed it over to the receptionist/office manager and told her what was up.
“My phone’s not working and I’ve got to start a webinar in about 20 minutes,” I said.
“Really? It was working before,” she said, offering up what I considered to be an irrelevant bit of information.
“Well, it’s not working now,” I said adamantly, trying to control my frustration.
We walked over to office where she tested the phone by calling the office next door.
“Look, it’s working,” she said.
“Yes, it’s working for an internal call, but not for the call I need to make,” I said, proceeding to dial the number as a demonstration.
Now, she saw firsthand that the phone wasn’t working.
“I can switch the phone out for you,” she said. I considered this a good first option, as I didn’t want to take the time to move and hook up all my stuff. So we waited about five minutes for the VoIP phone to boot up, after which I tried to make the call. No dice.
“I can move you to another office,” she said, with less than 10 minutes until my start time.
“Let’s go,” I said.
Now, to be fair, she was very helpful in moving me, carrying some of my equipment to facilitate the process. I quickly settled into my new digs, got all set up and had everything launched in time. This was one of those times where it’s good nobody gets to see the sausage being made.
Luckily the rest of the event went off without a hitch. Afterward, I asked to meet with “Sally.” Noting my frustration with this and other IT disruptions at the office recently, I asked for a credit.
“I’ll see what I can do,” she said. “You know, I tried that other phone after we moved you and it worked.”
At this point, the “everything seems to be fine” mantra I keep hearing from her was grating on me. You see, my takeaway from her repetitive, “everything was great before and after,” was an implication that I was somehow to blame for the issue; that somehow it was user error, as if I was trying to dial Miss Cleo instead of Webex. I recalled that during our crisis, she even said something like, “You know, you have to dial a 9 first.”
“Yes,” I said, barely concealing my exasperation. “I know that.”
And again, when I saw Sally in the days after the mishap, she continued to say things like, “IT couldn’t find anything wrong with the phone,” or “It’s been working fine ever since.” I wanted to lose my mind.
Amazingly, a few days later, Sally put me back in the same office where I’d had the problem. I tested the phone and found it to have a delay between when I finished dialing and when the call started to process. To Sally’s bewilderment, I asked be moved. Her reactions left me quite irritated.
As a CIO, you may sometimes feel like a car mechanic — folks come in, tell you of an issue, and say, “Can you hear that?” The worst thing for the user, of course, it that when they get the thing in front of you, it doesn’t make the noise anymore. But when they get back to their office, it’s loud and clear again.
What you DON’T want to do in this situation, is make it clear to them that you think they are either incompetent or nuts, both of which Sally did to me. These are smart folks you are dealing with (so they are, generally, not out of their minds) and they are busy (which means they are probably not calling the help desk or accosting you just for the fun of it). And, as we all know, technology can be a wacky thing. Someone may have experienced a disruption of service that you can’t see a record of nor can you detect again, but if you want to provide any kind of customer service, you must believe their account of what they experienced. Perhaps it’s true that if you can’t replicate it, you can’t rectify it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t empathize with it — and them — by providing assurance you’ll keep an eye on things. Maybe you can change out their equipment or change their office. Whatever the case, try to do something.
Because I can tell you from personal experience, if you simply say that you don’t hear anything, you’ll be hearing some serious complaints about your service levels very soon, and they’ll certainly come through loud and clear.