The Bank Holiday Caller

Throughout my life responding to the whims of my consuming public, there have always been a certain number of Unreasonable People who have rather curious expectations of what I should be providing to them.

This was illustrated to no bigger extent today – a bank holiday – when the phone rang at 6:30pm. Until that point, as far as I had been aware (as I’m not always there to hear the landline ringing) – it had been a quiet weekend. Exactly what you might expect on a bank holiday weekend. No calls. Good.

But someone did ring at 6:30pm. A few points.

It was a bank holiday.

Even if it wasn’t a bank holiday, it was out of hours anyway.

They didn’t leave a message.

Because I am such a neurotic individual, shortly afterwards I did 1471 to find out the number, and perhaps cross-reference it against my phonebook to see if I could track down the anti-social individual. Tragically, there was no match.

But then my brain was getting really annoyed with this person. I decided I would try to hold back on my anger. They may have forgotten what type of day it was. They may have forgotten the time. It happens. I have quite a few retired customers to whom the weekends are just another day. Every day is a weekend.

So if that was the case, they would call back tomorrow.

They didn’t. They didn’t even call back the next day. Or the next. Or the next.

So what is the mentality of this person? It is an exercise in futility to get angry over things like this, but I do. I can’t help it. I have tried to stop my brain being so obsessed with social norms and customs like this, but at times I feel more like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. It just happens…

What kind of person gives ONE opportunity to take their custom, and offers it at such an incredibly inconvenient and thoughtless time? One single call, leaving no message, on the evening of a bank holiday day?

If they’d left a message, it would have eased my entire worries. Leaving a message is a tacit admission of “I will wait for when it is a more convenient moment for you” – that is OK. It recognises that you are not the centre of the universe, and that just because it is convenient for you right at this moment, it might not be convenient for the object of your call.

Over time my brain has come to accept that these things are inevitable. There are some massively rude people out there. They could even be the type of people where, should the boot me on the other foot, and I call them at 10pm at night, they would be greatly offended. Rude, rude, rude. They are out there. I know all too well from my brothers who have worked in call centres.

I also wonder, if I had answered the call, would they have said something like, “Oh I wasn’t expecting you to answer!” – I have heard that before when I’ve answered calls at slightly odd times, which I used to do a lot more than I do now. In fact, I try to be very strict with the cut off times now.

I honestly never thought I’d be able to exercise my social observation powers so much through business. An unfortunate, and unwanted, side-effect.

Then again, I guess not everyone’s like me.

And the customer is not always right.


The Customer Is Always Right

There are generally two different types of customer that I see. The ones who don’t know what they’re doing and admit it, and the ones who don’t know what they’re doing but don’t admit it.

The former are easy. They put their hands up and accept that they were responsible through ignorance. This is good. It means I know when I tell them what went wrong and how they can avoid it in future that they are actually listening to me. Some of them even take notes. This is good.

The latter are deadly. In some cases, they take their ignorance to a different level, and instead believe that they already have all the answers. They frequently cite technobabble in support of what they were doing, sometimes getting terms wrong, using them in the wrong way, or just plain making stuff up.

These are the most difficult.

I’ve learned to be extremely tactful in my business dealings with customers. For this kind, I invariably nod and agree with what they were saying, bearing in mind the old axiom that is the subject of this post. I don’t like to show people up. I don’t want to embarrass them by calling bullshit on something they’ve just said. After all, they’re paying my wages.

It’s probably true of any “maintenance” profession though. I’m sure when I’ve had plumbers and other technical people around I’ve said some nonsense and they’ve agreed with it. After all, we sometimes just want to make conversation, or pretend we know what’s going on. In some ways, by doing that we like to think that by showing we know what’s going on, we will be able to tell if there’s the potential of a rip-off in the pipeline.

So with that in mind, that also wants to make me leave my customers alone, because I’ve been in their shoes at some point. Also, by me acknowledging to them that they know something about the subject, it makes them think that I will be kind to them, and not try to invent problems that aren’t actually there. Which, as we all know, is what car mechanics do…

I probably go out of my way though to avoid this impression. I’m constantly worried that my customer is going to think I’m sitting there time-wasting to run up the clock, or when I’m ordering parts that I’m going to massively overcharge for it. So much so that I reckon I under-charge. My labour is cheaper than anyone in town by a long way. Parts, I only ever add a few quid.

Maybe I’m just not ruthless enough to run a business…