Strengthening The Relationship
Even When Things Go Terribly Wrong

I’m not easily impressed – especially when I feel as if everything is going wrong. But in the end I have to grudgingly tip my hat to ComEd’s Customer Service Group even though I’m sitting here with only half power 6 days after the storm.

Did ComEd’s electronic response system make mistakes? Looks like it.

Did individual ComEd reps make mistakes? Looks like it.

Did the customer (me) make mistakes? Probably.

First, about my problem – Why am I still at half power? Turns out an electrical spike fried my breaker box. Unfortunately, ComEd kept saying the power disruption was their issue until about 5 pm yesterday so I delayed calling an electrician.

I’m writing this from a computer that is running off a series of extension cords strung from from a kitchen outlet that is also running my fridge and stove. I had never heard of half power before, but for us it means that a seemingly random assortment of lights and outlets are working in the house. When we have a power need we re-weave our extension cords to take care of it.

So, I’m a customer who’s problem was not solved or identified until well after it should have been. Why am I not peeved?

Credit goes to well trained and very sympathetic customer service reps that seemed to care no matter how upset I got.

When their electronic response system seemed to reset my request every time I called, the rep was as frustrated as I was. When I was apparently the last house in town that no one had stopped by, I could tell the rep felt my pain. When the notes from the field didn’t explain why I was still sitting in the dark and no excuse seemed reasonable – I could almost hear the conversation between managers that got a truck to my home in 15 minutes. When it turned out to be something in my house the lineman apologized that communication hadn’t been better. Everyone seemed to care and everyone seemed willing to go off script to try and help.

The empathy was what seemed so unusual and disarming. I don’t know if it was from training, from great hiring practices or both. Maybe the situation of having over half a million customers without power just broke down the barriers to create a “We’re all in this together attitude” had something to do with it.

In the end, I was left with the strong impression that they actually cared – admitting their own mistakes and doing what they could to correct them. Now here’s the question that begs to be asked: With all the emphasis on customer service in our economy, why did this feel so unusual that I felt the need to write about it?

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