I had three refreshing interactions yesterday. The first was with an acquaintance who I ran into as we were both walking into the same building. I routinely asked how she was. Instead of a stock reply, she answered that she wasn’t doing great. There was sickness in her family. Her parents needed to move to be closer to her due to age and illness. She was living the reality of the sandwiched generation. At first I was taken a bit off guard, but I appreciated her honesty and the opportunity to empathize with her and listen. The encounter made me feel that I knew her better.
The second experience was on the phone with a service provider’s office. I had asked them to fax a paper three previous times and was calling to express my displeasure with the fact it still had not been done (my intolerance for bad customer service is sure to be a recurring theme of this blog). Instead of excuses, the woman on the other end of the line said that she didn’t know why it hadn’t been done before but she would personally take care of it and gave me her name in case there was a problem reading the fax or I needed anything else. Having the person take ownership and offer to be accountable was a refreshing change of pace compared to other customer service encounters.
The third encounter was with a client I had done some work for in the past. My contact called to ask me if I would potentially be interested in a project. As we talked through the project, it became clear that they were not ready to do it right – organizationally or financially. My colleague recognized this and said he appreciated talking through the project and its scope required to achieve its desired goals and would be back in touch when they were really ready. It was refreshing that he wasn’t looking to save face or jam something through just to check it off the list but that he was able to take into account organizational readiness, timing and the financial costs of doing the job well.
People are often predictable, but sometimes they are not. Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised.