Customer Service…where did it go?  Did it take the ability to think outside of policies, standards and rules with it?  When did we stop being people helping other people and start using “the corporate script?”

I ask these questions because of a series of encounters I have recently had when trying to close accounts for my father.  It started with the power company and went something like this…

“Hello, I am calling to turn of the power at my father’s house it was sold today?”

Power company rep: “Are you Mr. Johnston?”

“No, he passed away. I am the executor of the estate.”

“You are not authorized on the account and the Privacy Act states I cannot talk to you.”

“But I have a letter of testamentary, his death certificate, and his checking account if you need proof.”

“I am sorry, I cannot talk to you about this account without Mr. Johnston’s approval.”

“He’s dead. How can I turn off his power?”

“There is nothing I can do until the next homeowners call to start an account.  It will trigger a Death Closure Ticket and the account will be closed.  I must end this call with you right now as I am not authorized to discuss the account with you.”

The lack of customer service continued with the hospital…

“Hello, I am calling about the late notice on my father’s hospital bill and strong language about being sent to collections.  I had to go through legal paperwork to set up an estate checking account to pay his bills.  It took several months and now I can pay it.  I would appreciate not being sent to collections.”

Hospital rep: “We didn’t know Mr. Johnston had died.  There is no record of that on my screen.”

“He died in your hospital.”

“It was your responsibility to inform us.  The computer automatically sends the bills to Mr. Johnston, I have no control over that.”

“I thought because he died in Room 484 and this bill includes charges for final procedures on the body, the hospital might have an clue.”

“No, you should have called us to inform us of his death and tell us who would be responsible for paying the bill.  If that is you, I will need your credit history.”

These actual conversations are just two of the eleven, I have had in the past two months.

They serve as a reminder to me.  In the world of sustainable meetings, as we move forward to implement policies, procedures and standards, let’s remember that we are all human.  Let’s help each other along the way and not be strident in enforcement of sustainable initiatives.  Let’s work together for the sake of our industry and the planet we all share.  Let’s not forget that a little understanding goes a long way.

Awkward or “great minds think alike” moment:  After writing this blog, I read Shawna McKinley’s recent post and realized how similar our messages are.  Inspired by different experiences, we both put pen to paper (apparently within hours) with a shared hope for a better world.