The Most Important Lesson I Learned about Customer Service
One morning, after dropping off my daughter at school and while making the 30 minute drive to work, I began to sweat. Suddenly, my heart started beating heavily and I pulled over to the side of the road, yanking open the door just in time to throw up. I was crying and I was scared. I wasn’t pregnant nor I needed any medical attention. I needed a new job. Badly! And, I knew it!
Up to this point my business background had always involved law firms, but due to personal reasons, our family had to relocate to another state, which resulted in limited employment opportunities.
I started working for a large financial services company collecting on account receivables. In other words, I was a debt collector. It was a miserable job. The working hours were beyond difficult and the employee turn-over rate was ridiculously high.
There were many things I loathed about that job. Mainly, how nasty my coworkers spoke with the “debtors” to collect money on an outstanding credit card debt. I was not accustomed to hearing such filth, nastiness, rudeness and demeaning comments. It made me physically ill.
It didn’t help having my manager and his two assistants acting like tyrants and bullies. If you can believe, one woman even carried a black leather horsewhip and would crack it in the air as she walked up and down the aisles, and between our desks.
Admitting I hated this job was an understatement. My family needed the money, so quitting was not an option. Then one day I made a firm decision and a commitment to myself – I will not compromise on my business ethics and personal morals!
I created four ground rules for myself to follow:
- ALWAYS be kind
- NEVER say anything disrespectful
- NEVER allow yourself to be disrespected
- ALWAYS act as someone you would want to do business with
I immediately put those four rules into practice and referred to each person not as a “debtor,” but as a “client.” I always remembered to ask what I could do to help them solve their debt problem. I realized pretty fast that I created a shift in the conversation from one of anger, humiliation and embarrassment to one of mutual respect and understanding.
After the first 30 days and every consecutive month, until I left my position two years later. I ranked in the Company’s Top 3 for the most amount collected.
By the time I resigned, I received numerous letters, cards and even flowers from “clients” saying how much they appreciated my attitude and service. I still keep a few cards on the wall of my new office as reminders of what can be achieved by a simple change in attitude and excellent customer service.