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Study the scenario below and identify which of the reasons why people fail to communicate frequently (as outlined in the podcast) do you see manifested.
(The scenario: A customer complaint against a customer service agent is being investigated. The customer purchased a high-end phone that was on the borderline of warranty period expiry. The customer needed the phone repaired fairly urgently as they were leaving on an extended trip. The customer walked in to the phone service center, explained their situation, and ended up leaving the phone with the center after speaking with the service agent, convinced they’d get the phone back in time. And it went south from there.
The agent is in a meeting room with the supervisor, and has been asked for an explanation.)
Supervisor: …And so that’s what the customer has said in their complaint letter. I understand this customer was interacting with you for almost 8 days. What do you have to say for yourself?
Agent: Arre Sir, now what do I say to you? First of all, this customer’s phone had multiple issues. They weren’t upfront about this, we found that out later. And they wanted the phone repaired the next day. I told them that wasn’t possible. Then they mentioned the warranty period was about to end in a week’s time. And they had to travel at the end of the week too. That’s when I thought about it. Sir, it’s not an ordinary phone they had…it was our flagship phone. That makes them a special customer, no? That’s when I asked them to leave the phone with me and I said I’d do my best to sort the matter out. What a big mistake that was!
Firstly, the customer would email me at least thrice every day and call too. You know how busy it is these days, should I sit answering all my emails and calls, or should I tend to the crowds that walk into the store?
Supervisor: So you’re saying you didn’t reply to those emails?
Agent: Not all of them. Where’s the time to do that? At first, I replied saying I was on the case, and that they shouldn’t worry. But they just wouldn’t back off. So I decided to respond when I had something to report.
Supervisor: Okay. And when did you report back to them?
Agent: See, now there was a separate problem there. Firstly, as I said before, there were multiple issues with the phone and we discovered it two days later. At this point there were just five days left on the warranty, and for the customer to travel. I knew then that it would not be possible to fix the phone on time.
Supervisor: Fine. Did you tell the customer that?
Agent: What? No! How could I? They were already on my case with their phone calls and emails. If I told the customer that we couldn’t help, she’d throw a fit. She’d ask why it took two whole days to figure that out. What was I supposed to say then? We’d look like complete idiots.
Supervisor: So…what did you do exactly?
Agent: I did the only thing I could. I asked the repair unit to start work on the phone immediately. As you know, sometimes you fix one circuit and everything falls in place. I was personally overseeing this case. I stayed back late all through just to ensure we fixed it. But we weren’t so lucky this time. There were two days to the deadline, and we were still struggling to put the phone together.
Supervisor: And what about the customer? Did you speak with them at this time?
Agent: Yes. I told them all the problems that had manifested within the phone, and that we were doing our best to fix it. Again, the calls and emails kept coming. But what is more important, maintaining public relations or actually getting work done? I chose the latter.
Supervisor: I see. At this point, did you voice your concerns to the customer about meeting the deadline?
Agent: I would have, but the customer was very desperate. I don’t think they would understand. The customer was hoping, like us, that it would all work out just fine.
Supervisor: But it didn’t work out, did it?
Agent: No. The repairs needed were just too extensive. And then the warranty lapsed, which means if the customer took their phone elsewhere, they’d have to pay for repairs. And their travel date was also on the cards. It became one big mess, and I became the scapegoat. I mean, that phone could not have been repaired in seven days. I’ll bet my life on it. And yet, here I am, being blamed for it and defending my actions before you.