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What raw sewage taught me about customer service

This is a story about sewage. It is also a story about a satisfied customer - and what customers and those who serve them can learn from my (admittedly smelly) experience.

I like my neighbours. I do not like their poo. But a few weeks back, we had to deal with it as the pipes that fed from three of our neighbours blocked up and spewed forth from a drain on our property. The resulting sticking mess then ran down our driveway and onto the street.



After calling both our strata company and the water provider, this is what I learned about customer service:



Our strata manager is as elusive as Pink. He is always in a meeting and when he says he will follow up or call back, we dare not hold our breaths no matter how smelly the sewage. The water company answered our calls immediately and called both during and after their service to check that all was well.



We had guests staying with us during the whole poo-in-our-driveway incident. We missed appointments waiting for plumbers. We had to park on the street. These are not massive issues in the scheme of things, but the customer service team at the water company must have taken listening lessons as we felt heard after every complaint. And sometimes that’s all a customer wants: to be heard.


Our strata manager, on the other hand, argued with us and debated the finer points of his job. He also told us that he had to deal with “much bigger” problems than ours. 



This one is for customers too:


When my dad died I was in Paris. Upon my arrival back into Sydney, we stopped to get a coffee, which I then managed to spill over the dash of the car when we pulled into a petrol station. The woman in the car behind me started honking and angrily gesturing for us to move forward. I got out of the car and calmly, but sadly, explained that my dad had just died. She apologized and said she didn’t know. Of course she didn’t know. You often don’t. So if you’re a customer, dealing with one or even just existing in polite society, remember that you don’t know what someone is going through, so it’s best to treat people with respect. 


In our case, it could have been that the water company was nice to us first, so we were nice too. Or it could have been the other way round. Whichever way it went, it ended in a disinfected driveway, happy customers and I believe happy customer service representatives.


Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 7 August 2018

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