A Personal Touch

Early in my career, I worked for a Fortune 500 company. The division I worked for provided business management software for a specific slice of the retail segment. My job was to implement software that our clients purchased. This was a field based job, where I spent virtually all of my time meeting clients in their place of business. After the implementation was done, clients received phone based support and this was provided by another department in the organization.

One day, I was in the office where the phone support was provided, and as I walked by I overheard a phone conversation between a support rep and a client. Based on the rep’s facial expressions, I could tell the conversation was less than pleasant. Just then, the rep dropped the phone receiver on the desk, shouted “I can’t take this anymore” and walked away. The phone call was still live, and I could hear a female caller on the other end shouting at the rep that had just walked away. She was not aware there was no one on the other end of the phone. I wasn’t sure what to do exactly, but I decided to pick up the receiver. I didn’t immediately announce myself, but just listened for a few seconds. Quickly I realized the woman was someone I had worked with. She was livid and shouting. Some words were not appropriate for children.

When she took a breath, I said “Hi, ‘Jane’, this is Alan Kinsey. ‘John’ stepped away for minute. Can I help you?” Expecting the worst, I held my breath for the next onslaught. Instead, Jane calmed down immediately and asked how I was doing. It was like night and day. I asked her about her problem, and she explained it briefly. I didn’t know how to solve it, but I was planning to be in the area the next day, and I told I could drop by and we could take a look. Jane said that would be great, and she looked forward to seeing me. She told me to have a nice day and I wished her the same.

I walked away wondering what caused the dramatic change. Was it my sparkling personality and good looks? Uh, no I’m pretty sure that wasn't it. Was it my exceptional knowledge and skill? No, the rep that walked away was far more knowledgeable and experienced than me. Ultimately I concluded that I had a personal relationship with the client because we had met and worked side by side. I wasn't a nameless, faceless person in a far off place. This early experience taught me the importance of personalizing the client relationship as much as possible. While meeting onsite is not always possible, taking all the steps possible to get personal with customers is vitally important.