I got a message from one of my officers that her Nextel Cell Phone
went dead. Since the other 24 phones were working ok I thought it was a bit odd. We had received a letter from Nextel about a week earlier that indicated that according to them, "they were going to start invoicing us separately for this same officer's phone apart from the rest of our pooled account to provide us with "better service." Ironically, that customer service letter from Las Vegas, Nevada didn't list a phone number or customer service representative to call with questions. When the now disconnected officer had called customer service, they told her that Nextel had transferred her account to another cell company.
Fast forward to yesterday, Friday, June 10th. For the second consecutive day, I tried to reach someone in customer support with Nextel. After giving up, I called our account rep who is a living, breathing, Minnesota resident that I've actually met. He handles government accounts and actually comes to our chief's conferences and checks up on us regularly...the main reason we switched service in the first place. Anyway Dave gave us a few ideas and I was determined to get to the bottom of the matter.
I initiated a call to Nextel at 4:35 p.m. on Friday and believe it or not, about 2 and a half hours later, I got the matter resolved. In the process, I spoke to about 7 different people and discovered that Nextel has about a dozen different divisions and about three different kinds of music to soothe their customers waiting on hold.
Now y'all might think I'm going to rant about lousy customer service: wrong. I don't like the automated answering systems. I've fought to keep them out of the police department and will always continue to do so. Public service organizations need to have real people speaking to their constituents but that's another posting.
I want to celebrate the fact that good old American courtesy and determination is alive and well at a cell phone company! The kind of determination that got us through an industrial revolution during World War II, let us win the Cold War and will help us beat the information management revolution. The key to this secret weapon is the same spirit that built this country. It is the same sense of family that brings us together in disasters and tragedies. It's common courtesy and the willingness to help out your neighbor. It's what makes us different from every other country in the world.
In this case I want to tell you about how two women personalized a faceless, cold company that made the 2+ hour phone adventure actually enjoyable.
Here's how it went. I finally got in touch with a person named Charlette. She took the time to listen to my plight and and told me she would stay with me through all the transfers and make sure that we got the phone thing taken care of. She joked she was in New York and that she was working until 10 p.m. and would stay later if she had to. In the process of working through the process. I met another person named Winnie, yep just like the bear she said, who also hung on the line. Both were commensurate professionals in their demeanor but were frank and candid with the other people we spoke to. They provided the information I could not provide and broke through the red tape to get things straightened out.
It turned out that Nextel (ported is the new politically correct word) this particular number to another company. Fortunately, it hadn't been issued yet so we got it back. In the process they made sure that this never would happen again by locking in our phone numbers. It turned out that Winnie was in Victoria, Texas. I used to live there. I also found out that although some of the things are in the same place, Winnie wasn't even born when I lived there. Victoria holds a special place in my memories....it's where I saw the first Star Wars movie back in the 1970's.
There were also some job-related things that Charlette and I had in common. She was very complimentary of the law enforcement profession in general. We also talked about our frustration in trying to help people who are extremely rude and down right mean. Both women were proud of their work in turning around bad customer situations into very positive ones.Stephen Covey
would be very proud of these two women. They epitomize the essence of his 7 Habits
in getting the job done by practicing "Win Win." I'll talk about how this concept will solve a number of conflicts that we currently experience here in Northfield in subsequent posts.
There is a book I read a while back entitled Good to Great
by Jim Collins
that describes what makes great companies from so-so ones. The latitude given to these two women and their determination to solve the problem, is exactly what makes great companies. I will tell you that in the past five years, this is the very first time that I have been impressed with a service company representative, let alone two and I asked their permission to use them as examples as I travel the United States sharing my experiences in customer service and winning compromise. They gave me permission.
During our problem-solving journey that took us literally around the U.S., I was impressed with the skill of both women to persuade and provide information necessary to keep the process moving along. By the time we got done, I joked it was too bad we couldn't get together over a pizza and celebrate. The final outcome? The phone was restored back into our pool and my faith that as high tech and large our companies grow, they still rely on the basic instincts and good will of employees who still understand that solving problems and being straight-forward and honest with customers while still remaining loyal to the employer is what will continue to make this country great.
Thanks Charlette--thanks Winnie, it was a pleasure meeting you!
PS - you also kept a customer.