On Monday I was trying to sort out what seemed to be a relatively minor problem accessing a copy of my online phone bill. After several unsuccessful attempts, and several fruitless searches as to how I could actually contact Virgin Media, I at last found the right phone number. I explained the problem to the lady who was very friendly and she started to sort out the issue from her end. She had obviously been trained in customer relations and putting callers at ease. But why, oh why was the first question she asked, “Are you having a good day?”. If I were, I clearly wouldn’t be having to make this phone call. Later on she asked if I’d had a busy weekend. If I were a quick thinking evangelist I would have talked about the services on Sunday, but I wasn’t, and sadly, I was already in too bad a mood to say anything appropriately witty. (The whole series of phone calls took over 40 minutes).
This experience wasn’t quite as bad, however, as the times when you ring up with a complaint and find cheery folk at the end of the line who always say, “No problem”. Your shiny new gadget has malfunctioned, your prized possessions have been ruined, and you can’t find the receipt, and the first thing you hear is “No problem”. Of course there’s a problem. I have just told you what the problem is. What’s more, your company seems to be the source of the problem. And that problem will continue to exist until you fix it.
All this makes me wonder how much I actually listen to others. It’s all too easy to have stock phrases at hand to show you’ve heard what the other person is saying. But sometimes they reveal just how much you’re not really listening.