Customer Service Failures Due to Poor Information Management

I recently experienced an epic customer service failure caused by poor information management (IM). When I tell people I work in IM (or the fancier sounding information governance), I often get quizzical looks. Or a long “hmmm” followed by, and what does that mean, exactly? If I do my job well, it means a seamless experience for both the customer and the customer service rep. Here’s what happened and how proper IM could help.

In May, an HVAC technician repaired our AC unit. He left us with a major gas leak, an uncleaned work area, and an AC unit not properly sealed. The damage he caused took less than 4 hours. The repair job took about 6 weeks, including 5 visits from different technicians and multiple phone calls. This included one visit from the original bozo who caused the damage.

The gas leak was an easy fix. Though even that took more than one call and escalation to the manager. Following that, it took many tries to get the right technician. We needed an installation technician. The company kept sending a service technician. On the third try, an installation technician came. However, the service notes weren’t accurate and the technician didn’t have the right equipment. He sent photos and an email to the company. I called the company again. Once more, they sent a service technician. This technician also sent photos and an email to the company.

Eventually, I escalated the situation to the manager. The manager asked me to send him photos. I did, wondering what happened to the photos previously sent by two of the company’s technicians. Following my email, the company sent the original bozo. Needless to say, I didn’t let him in. The following day they sent an installation technician who came with the right equipment. Finally!

The Fix: Proper Information Management

From my perspective, this type of failure was caused on multiple levels. However, the main failure was a lack of communication and updated information between the company’s service areas. The company sent the wrong type of technician multiple times. This wasted time and effort.

Secondly, it took weeks to get a visit from the right technician. When he arrived, he didn’t have the right equipment, another waste of time and effort.

Lastly, why weren’t all of the photos of the AC hack job compiled and noted in my customer file? Instead, three different people sent the photos.

Soul Food: Lunching with Friends

Last week I had lunch with a couple of friends, in person! Afterwards, I kept marveling at how extraordinary this ordinary event felt. We’ve basically been in lockdown since November 2020. I hadn’t seen these friends, or really anybody, in person since last September. Things that had been easy pre-pandemic, such as lunching with a friend, now felt new and energizing in a different way.

Coincidentally, later that evening I watched, “Fuel,” the third episode of a Netflix series call Human: The World Within. As you might imagine, fuel refers to the food we eat. However, my lunch experience was about everything but the food. It was about the company and the human interaction, though we were socially distanced and outside. Talking freely in real time without video/audio delays, poor image resolution, and the worry of being recorded felt novel.

The episode felt like a very one-sided dimension of food. It seemed to miss many aspects of our life it nourishes. I can recall many delightful events centered around food. Yet, I almost never remember the “fuel.” Instead, what I remember are the laughs, the discussions, and the connection I felt to others. The food may have been the reason for getting together, it may have even been the central event. But more often than not, it’s not what I remember later.

My one-hour lunch date with friends was short, but engaging. It brought new meaning to the term “soul food.” Food is so much more than just fuel for our bodies. It’s memories and comfort. It’s about connections, joy, and discovery. I love the sensation of eating something hot and spicy when I have a cold, even better if someone else makes it. Packing chocolate and cookies into the lunch bag for a day at an ocean beach is mandatory for me. The salty air intensifies the sweetness of the treats and ultimately my beach experience.

Diminishing the value of food to simply “fuel” misses the whole point of eating.

More Online Form Failures

I’ve blogged about forms before. In one post I ranted about the inefficiencies of poorly made online forms. But the second one offered a more optimistic future of easy, available online forms. The pandemic accelerated this change. It’s a good change and one that I hope more places adopt.

Last weekend I had to get a routine test done at a lab. After my tele-health appointment with my doctor (another pandemic perk!), she sent me the test requisition through a secure online portal. Knowing that most places preferred not to handle paper, I saved the requisition to my phone.

The instructions on the lab’s website were murky about making an appointment, checking wait times, and how the lab worked in general. It was close enough to my home that I decided to go in person to figure everything out. The lab had an option to upload a requisition through their website. However, with multiple locations available, I wasn’t confident where the upload would end up. Or if the location I visited would be able to access it. Though I felt confident with an electronic copy ready there would be a solution once I arrived at the lab.

When I arrived, I was the first person in line to enter the lab, though other patients were already waiting in the actual lab for their tests. The lab’s administrative assistant instructed me to email my requisition to the lab’s email address. Then, I waited. And waited. And waited. In the meantime, the administrative assistant helped all the other people behind me with printed requisition forms! All the paper pushers got to enter before me.

I waited patiently in the doorway while the assistant downloaded and printed my form from the email attachment I sent. Then the assistant handed it to another assistant who diligently pecked all my information into a new system. They printed a label. And finally, it was my turn.

The twenty+ minutes I waited, gave me ample time to observe and think about this process. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have an online admitting form? One where I could type in my own information? Surely health records are one place where it’s critical not to have silly typos and spelling mistakes by entering and re-entering data across multiple systems.

Going forward, I hope more businesses take advantage of streamlined systems with less paper and less data entry.

Bathroom Hoarder, Part II

Almost five years ago, while reorganizing my bathroom products, I discovered I’m a bathroom hoarder. I had lots of products and lots of waste, namely expired or partially used products. Some products were untouched, still packaged. Since then, I worked hard to use my bathroom items.

When the pandemic started, I made it a mission to reduce non-essential trips, and save money, by finishing every product in my bathroom before buying anything new. This included sample tubes of toothpaste and little testers of creams, tonics, toners, and other beauty products. I devoted myself to this task, routinely checking under the bathroom sink and reaching to the back of the cupboards.

Even so, when we packed up to move last December, our bathroom stuff filled three tubs! Each tub was approximately the size of two bankers’ boxes. To be fair, most of the bathroom stuff was in a single layer, but still… three tubs! I was appalled. Three tubs even after a thorough purge of all the expired, old, and grungy stuff. I filled almost two grocery bags of bathroom stuff to dispose.

Naturally, this got me thinking about why we tend to accumulate so much stuff in the bathroom. One challenge for me is when I need to buy something specific for a one-time, or infrequent, use. This includes things like first-aid supplies, cough syrup for the cough I had three years ago, allergy medication for when I visit someone with cats (definitely not needed during the pandemic), supplies for failed beauty routines, gifts, etc.

Another challenge is overbuying when one of my favorite products is on sale. It’s hard to resist the temptation to buy an extra bottle or two. This is the case even when I don’t need to buy the product. The allure of a sale is strong.

Lastly, some of the build up is situational. I hardly used any sunscreen last year. With things closed last summer, combined with dangerous heat and polluted air warnings, there wasn’t a lot of incentive to be outside.

I have a new awareness of my bathroom hoarding tendencies. I’m more mindful about what I buy and when. With the exception of heavy-duty, industrial grade hand cream, a necessary accompaniment to frequent hand washings and using hand sanitizers, I haven’t bought much in the last year. Maybe there’s hope after all.

Navigating the Post-Pandemic Workplace

I recently returned to work after an 18-month leave. When I started my leave in 2019, everything was business as usual. This included many of the typical onsite office experiences such as collaborating on documents through email. Patchy online meetings with employees who worked at other locations. This usually ended with a conference call from a landline. Or rescheduling. Cubicle drop-bys. And mostly, commuting 5 days a week to work onsite at one of three locations.

Returning to work over a year, and one pandemic later, things are different. I expected some of the changes. However, some things have caught me by surprise. For example, all the new apps available for working online. One app is specifically for working collaboratively online. Landline phone calls come through my computer to another app. We have a chat service to replace casual cubicle drop-by conversations. The chat service deletes these conversations regularly.

The new apps are great. However, the big surprise to me was how little training I received on them. Proper guides and instructions are also lacking. So while we have all these awesome new tools, some of the work is still “business as usual.” This means relying on outdated, but familiar, ways of working.

The world changed. The workplace changed. The employees, not so much. Navigating through this familiar, but new landscape is taking some time to figure out.

Online Meeting Etiquette

Another big surprise to me is the amount of meetings. I anticipated a lot of meetings when I returned. What I hadn’t expected was the increased amount and the confusion about when to be on or off camera. Now, every casual conversation that used to happen with a drop-by, is replaced with a meeting. Or a phone call. Or sometimes casual chat messages. Since this changes based on the nature of the conversation, I’m still adapting.

As for the on/off camera confusion, I’m still working this one out. I’ve learned to always have an appropriate work shirt nearby. I also noticed some people blur their backgrounds. Or they take advantage of built-in background scenery options. Some people are always on camera. Some people are on camera for the beginning and end of the meeting, but off for the middle. Others are always off. Or only turn the camera on when they have something to say.

In time, I’m sure all these changes will feel like “business as usual.”

Adaptation: Clever Like the Fox

We have a fox in our backyard. I first glimpsed this sleek creature darting past one evening while checking the mail. I remember exclaiming loudly, “I just saw a fox!” to everyone in the house. This included a couple of technicians working on our thermostat at the time.

Later that evening, I looked up the symbolism. I was already familiar with common meanings of the fox being sly, clever, mischievous, and sometimes a trickster. What I hadn’t known is the fox is also associated with creative problem solving, imagination, and adaptability. Wow!

Red Fox in the Backyard

Seeing the fox reminded me of my long walks on the beach at Cherry Grove during summer visits. Walks in the early morning, specifically to see an elusive red fox. And here was a fox literally in my backyard. Since the first front door sighting, we’ve seen the fox twice more prowling around the backyard. Each time it’s a mix of delight, awe, and excitement.

The last couple of months I haven’t seen any traces of rabbits (i.e., pellets) in the backyard. Now I suspect it’s because of our friend, the fox. I can only imagine how many other creatures now know this is the fox’s hunting grounds.

However, the fox’s adaptability is the most impressive skill to me. Part of my initial shock at seeing the fox race past the front door was realizing how comfortable she was near people, cars, concrete, houses, etc. We live in close proximity to our neighbors. Our backyard touches three others. And yet, this fox had found a way to thrive, and live peacefully amongst us.

With the tail end of the pandemic in sight, albeit still many months (years?) away, I realize we all have something to learn from this clever fox. Once the devastating outbreaks end, and the lockdowns become less severe, we will all need to adapt to our new “normal.” It’s hard to predict what this will look like, or how we will feel about it. I’m sure for many of us it will be a combination of relief, anxiety, frustration, and joy. The point is, we need to adapt to keep going. Nothing will ever be the same after the pandemic. It was a major disrupter.

The best we can do is to take notes of the fox. Learn to adapt, solve problems, and explore some new hunting grounds.