5) "So what you're saying is, it's my son's fault."
Monday is my long day. I open the Stuff, Installed phones and I close them. It's 13 hours. Most of the time I don't mind but this past Monday I should have known the week was going to be weird and ultimately the customers were going to break me. This was the last in a series of calls from the same woman, starting at 3:30 Monday and ending at 6:30. It started innocently enough. She'd scheduled some service work for 3:30 that day and she was calling to make sure she was still on the schedule. She was, I said, and off she went.
That's when PM informed me that the repair guy had already been there, that her older son had let him in. Hey, sometimes our guys run ahead of schedule. I've never seen anyone get upset about us being early. Except for this woman.
She called back half an hour later(after PM had left for the day) to inform me that our guy had been there and hadn't fixed anything to her liking, mostly because what she told us she wanted fixed and what she really wanted fixed were two completely different things. And then she, PM, and I spent the next three hours calling each other back and forth, with the final phone call, the one above. After all her issues, we thought, had been eased, she found one more thing to fire at us. Apparently, her adult son let our guy in and then left the house. This is not unusual. Our customers leave all the time,and we complete the work and lock up. In her final, tearful rage, she wailed about "what kind of business would do that? Stay in the house when everyone is gone?" This piggybacked on one of her original complaints, that we'd entered her home without her permission. (Her son was 21 and had let us in the home on numerous other times. I don't know what she's doing in that bathtub, but she needs to stop doing it because she's clearly in need of too many repair calls.) I explained again, that our repair guy had been let in by her adult son and it was completely within her son's rights to ask the guy to leave and come back later, but he didn't.
Which is when, deflated, exhausted, but still very, very cranky, she fired this at me, "So what you're saying is, it's my son's fault?"
The battle had been epic and no way, NO WAY was I going to throw gasoline on the waning flames. I said, "What I'm saying is that should this ever come up again, your son needs to know he has the right to tell us to come back later."
It was only Monday night.
4) "Maybe we should just take up a collection."
One of my many duties at Stuff, Installed is I process the payments for all new and completed installations. That means if a check bounces, if a credit card is denied, or if a payment is short, I'm the one who gets to discuss this with the customer.
We have a customer named Willie. Willie is a sweet man, but he is one of those exhausting people who 1) mumbles 2) is really too old to be driving or operating a telephone and 3) has the attention span of a flea. Willie had his stuff installed late last week and gave us a cashier's check to pay the balance once the job was done. Little problem, the check was $8 short.
Everyone in the office groaned at the idea of the string of phone calls this would involve to get the $8 from him, and NBM came up with the idea for Willie's sales guy, my buddy Tank, to call him and get the money. Well, Tank called him, but didn't get hold of him. Tank had to leave a message. And here's the thing about phone messages: I'm 99% sure that of the over 100 phone messages I leave a day, only about nine people listen to them. I'd like to test this theory by singing Rick Springfield songs or growling instead of leaving a proper message, but I haven't had the courage.
So a day later, I get this phone call: "mmmmmmmmmm sum un call me?"
I say: "Is this Willie?"
|Reckon I'll git that $8 to ya mmm hmmm.|
What followed, and I'm not kidding, was a twenty minute conversation about how he was going to get the $8 to us, a conversation that took several detours around subject such as his wife (who was either dead and "going home to Jesus" or was getting out of the hospital. I'm not sure) to how he pays his bills. I suggested he drop it at the showroom, which he'd done with the other payment. NGTJ was not amused since she'd met Willie in the showroom, and she hadn't quite recovered. So I then suggested he mail the money. And then he had to write down the address...of the place he'd been.
What I didn't realize, until about the fourth time I said the street number to him, is that Willie was not only on his cell (which he's been known to simply drop or hang up in the middle of a conversation...phone skills are not his strength) but he was also DRIVING. This didn't click with me until he said, "Mmmm, I drop fawn n paer. I gone hit sum fin mmmmmmmmm."
20 minutes on the phone with Slingblade later, he got himself to the bank where a teller and NGTJ had a quick conversation that cleared everything up. I can't shake the picture of Willie's car crashing through the bank doors and him shuffling out to the teller with his phone in his hand...
We were close to giving up and just taking up a collection but the check showed up in the mail yesterday. And no reports of death by old man's car crashing a bank.
3) "What kind of business are you running?"
One of my duties every day is to call the people whose stuff we are installing the next day and ask them if they have any questions about the installation. Normally these calls take 45 seconds. Not on Wednesday. No, on Wednesday I called a woman who said, "No, no questions. Except..."
Apparently she was having some plumbing installed. And the plumber was there to prep things and while he was there, he is a plumber after all, she asked him to snake her drain. Well, yes, he's a plumber, but he doesn't snake drains as a regular rule because he works on the mixer valve and then gets out. So it wasn't unusual that he didn't have a snake in his truck. This woman, however, was shocked.
"What kind of business are you running that you only have one snake in the whole company and your plumber doesn't have it?"
I could have given her ten reasons, but I didn't have the strength to argue. I sensed we had a bigger battle ahead.
I hate it when I'm right.
I have to ask, when it's winter, if they have some indoor space in their home where the installer can set up. Apparently, this woman had an issue with this question.
"I was never told I had to have space in my house. My salesman told me I needed a garage. I have a garage. I have big rooms in my house, but there's furniture in there."
"Well, Ma'am, it's going to be -0 degrees out there tomorrow and snowing, so it makes the install easier..."
"I have no doubt it makes it easier for you!"
(I was going to say it makes it easier to control the materials if we can work at room temperature rather than below freezing because they don't have to wait for it warm up...which means the install takes less time.)
"And what kind of company are you running there that you need space inside someone's home to install something in their home? I've never heard of such a thing."
Then she hits me with this: "I told the sales guy I thought getting this work done in the winter was going to be a problem but he said oh no, it'll be fine."
"And it will be fine, ma'am. We do installations in the winter all the time. But your job needs a little work space and since it's going to be cold and snowing all I ask is that maybe you please move some of your furniture aside so he can work inside and your installation takes less time.
She argued this point for a very long five minutes.
Finally, I gave up. I said, "Ma'am, it's fine. He'll work in the garage."
"Well then I'll have to move my cars out of the garage and it's going to be cold and snowing."
I write fiction...and I can't possibly make this stuff up.
2) "Just clean it for me."
I'm not a sales person. If I were, I'd probably do what all our sales guys do at Stuff, Installed. I'd tell the customer whatever I had to to get them to buy the stuff we install. And I might gloss over some things, and use vague terms for other things. The end result of this practice is the following phone call I had on Thursday.
"I want someone to come and clean my bath tub."
"Ma'am, I can't have a tech come out and clean your bath tub."
"Your sales man told me in April that this was going to be a trouble free tub and I wasn't going to have to DO ANYTHING with it. Now it's got a soap scum on the bottom that's disgusting."
"Ma'am, I have some really good cleaning tips for you to try."
"I've tried everything you told me to do and I can't get it clean and my cleaning lady can't get it clean and I need someone to come out here and clean my tub."
Let's review what she just told me: She hasn't cleaned her tub in 9 months and now it's gross. She called before, we told her how to clean it and neither she nor her cleaning lady were able to clean the tub. (I'd fire the cleaning lady, but that's just me.)
"Ma'am, we really don't send our repair techs out to clean your bath tub."
"Well then your sales person lied to me. I just wish I'd never heard of Stuff, Installed. I spent all that money and you aren't going to come out and clean this tub?"
Had this not been the phone call that immediately followed both calls #3 and #1, I would have fought harder. But I was as broken as I've ever been by customers. I'd won one battle, (call #1) and I think of call #3 as a draw, since I lost one point, but won the overall war of opinion about the company. So yes, I lost this one. I sent a repair tech out to clean her tub.
As a sort of honorable mention, I have to bring up a phone I got on Thursday. It didn't make this list, but it made the repair tech's list. He's cleaning a tub and then he's going to another house to pull hair out of the drain. No, that's not part of our warranty either. But I hadn't recovered by Thursday morning and the minute she started yelling at me about how we didn't care about widows and she was going to THE INTERNET to tell everyone she hated us, I had no fight in me. So, sorry Roger the Repair guy...you're on janitorial duty today.
1) "Well this is just too much for me to handle."
This was one of my first phone calls on Wednesday. A young woman called to tell me she had a leak in her home in the bath space she installed. I was ready to schedule a service call but I had a few more questions to ask, and I'll just write this out the way it went down. We'll call the lady Tammy.
Tammy: I have a leak.
Sarah: okay, where's the leak?
Tammy: I can hear water dripping when the shower's on.
Sarah: Does it drip outside the tub area?
Tammy: No. But I can hear it dripping when the shower's on. I'm afraid it's dripping into the basement or between the walls or something.
Sarah: Do you hear dripping when the shower is turned off?
Sarah: Do you see a puddle outside the shower or in the basement?
Sarah: But you think you have a leak?
Tammy: Yes, because I hear water dripping when the shower is on and then it stops when the shower turns off.
Sarah: Okay, let me just process this: You have a leak but you can't see any evidence of the leak, you just hear water when the shower is on.
Tammy: Yes. And I'm afraid it's leaking into the basement.
Sarah: What kind of ceiling do you have in the basement?
Tammy: What do you mean?
Sarah: Is it a finished, dropped ceiling, or something like that, where the bathroom floor would be hidden? Can you remove a ceiling panel and look for a wet spot or something?
Tammy: I don't know. My husband looked around for water.
Sarah: Did he find any?
Tammy: No. He looked all around the shower area and didn't see anything.
Sarah: Did he see anything in the basement?
Tammy: I don't know if he actually went into the basement.
Sarah: Okay, before I disrupt your day by scheduling a service call, we need to figure out if you really have a leak or not.
Tammy: No, we have a leak. I can hear the water running when the shower is on. My husband told me to call you.
At this point Sarah thinks Tammy's husband told her to call us because he realizes he's married to a nut case and he's tired of dealing with her.
Sarah: Okay, but before I send someone out, we have to figure out if the leak is coming from something we installed or if it's coming from a part of the plumbing that we didn't install.
Tammy: Well, you installed the shower.
Sarah: Yes, but I can tell you that in my house I hear all kinds of water noises when the shower is on. Sometimes it's just water running through the pipes. And you haven't seen any evidence of a leak. So here's what I'd like you to do. Can you go downstairs and look around in the basement and see if there's any puddle or anything?
Tammy: My husband told me to call you. He looked all over the bathroom and didn't see a leak.
Sarah: Right, so now we need to look in your basement to see if there's any water down there. So can you just walk down to your basement and look for a puddle?
Tammy: This is just too much. I'm going to have to have my husband call you. I can't do anything else.
And then she hung up. I felt great. I avoided sending a repair guy out to fix a leak that didn't exist.
And then I scheduled him to clean a tub and dig hair out of a drain. He probably would have liked the phantom leak.
So that was my week. We can only go up from here...