Etiquette and Courteousness   1 comment

etiquette: [mass noun] The customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group: (OED)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about behavior (or behaviour if you’re from the UK), etiquette, and courteousness. And not just because of the current political climate, although that may have had something to do with it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been dealing with a few home repair issues over the past month or so and find myself – I think astonished is the right word – astonished at the varying levels of customer service etiquette I have encountered. Now, since I work in a customer-driven industry, I understandably have a few opinions on how people who are purchasing a service should be treated. (As well as how those providing your service should be treated, but that’s another post.)

When my car had its 100,000+ mile tune-up, the dealership told me straight out the work was going to take a while, although they couldn’t tell me exactly how long, and offered to drive me somewhere if I didn’t want to hang out in their waiting room most of the day. I thanked them, and said I was planning on taking a walk to the Y to work out and would be back in the early afternoon. When I returned after about three hours later – no, I wasn’t working out that whole time; it took me about a half-hour to walk in each direction, and there was a shower involved in there somewhere. Let’s just say my Fitbit was very happy at the end of the day – they apologized the car wasn’t ready yet and offered to get my lunch out of the trunk so I wouldn’t starve in their waiting room. When my phone rang an hour later – the boy wanted to know where I was as his Driver’s Ed class was over and it was snowing – they handed me the keys to a car so I could go get him.

Is it more expensive to get my work done at the dealership than at one of the smaller independent shops in town? Yes, yes it is. Am I going to continue using the service department at the dealership? You bet your bippy. Because I can’t beat the customer service I get there.

This was an interesting contrast with the garage door repair people. The person who scheduled the appointment told me they would be at my house between 2-5pm, and I dutifully requested the time off from work, even though it wasn’t convenient for me to be gone, because I really needed my garage door fixed. At ten minutes to five, I called them as no one had shown up yet, and I was wondering if they would still be coming. I was nonplussed when the lovely young lady on the other end of the phone blithely informed me they had already been and gone, and inquired why hadn’t I checked the garage door to see if it worked?

I asked her to hold on for a moment and went to investigate. The door opened. The door closed. While I was pleased at this turn of events, I was curious as to why no one had contacted me to let me know the work had already been done, apparently – from her records – while I was driving to my house from work and no longer had any need to physically be at the house. They had my cell phone number, after all. I thanked her for the door being repaired and explained my perplexity.

There was a long pause. But the work got done!” she cheerfully chirped into the phone.

I told her I was grateful it did and said I would be sure to pay the bill promptly when it came, then explained I had taken time off to be there at a time not convenient for my employer, and how calling me to let me know I didn’t need to be at home or even leaving a note to that effect taped to my front door would have been great customer service.

There was a longer pause.

Finally, she agreed that probably would have been the polite thing to do, but immediately followed up by saying it would have been inconvenient for the workers to write such a note. Because then they would have to carry paper and a pen with them, and doing so could make them late to their next appointment.

This time the pause was on my end.

I took a deep breath, and asked if she could please pass on my feedback to the owners of the company, as I was sure others would also appreciate my suggestion. Then I thanked her again and hung up, shaking my head as I explained the conversation to the boy (who was as puzzled as I was).

The guy who installed the dishwasher was great. He arrived two minutes earlier than I expected him, brought the new one in, took the old one out, and cleaned up after himself.

The hot water heater repair person – who was supposed to arrive at the same time as the dishwasher guy – called twenty minutes later to explain he was running late as there had been a rash of houses without heat due to the plummeting temperatures the night before. That was fine, and I expressed my appreciation for the call. Once he got to the house, he was able to ascertain what parts were needed and told me to call back once the manufacturer sent them to me so he could make the repair.

His second visit was somewhat less successful. And not simply because GE sent the wrong parts.

Upon finding out the repair would take three hours – information not initially shared with me by the person scheduling the appointment – it was rescheduled from Wednesday at 10am (which wouldn’t get me to work at 11:30am) to Friday at 8am (which wouldn’t get me to work at 8:30 which is when I need to be there the rest of the week, but would at least get my heater repaired).

At 8:15, I figured some heating emergency had come up and waited for my phone to ring. At 8:30, I decided they would be here any minute and started washing the dishes in the sink just in case the water had to be shut off. At 8:45, I started scrolling through my phone to find the tech’s number. At 8:57, they arrived. I brought them to the basement and gave them the parts that had been mailed to me. When I mentioned I had been expecting them an hour earlier I got a shrug, a smile, and “Oh, yeah. Something came up.” That was when we discovered the parts were wrong, so I get to do this all over again in a couple of weeks.

Oh. Joy.

Now, I admit to being somewhat old-fashioned in a lot of respects. One of these being when I am invited somewhere or make an appointment, I RSVP and show up if I say I am going to. I arrive on time (when I can or as close to it as possible) or let people know if I am running late and by how much. Because not knowing who or when or how many people you are expecting for a function is somewhat annoying extremely frustrating. Friends of mine have had problems with this over the past few years, people either not acknowledging invitations to events or saying they will be come and then not show up. And a lot of service industries – hairstylists, restaurants, health care workers – now have to have prominently displayed no-show/late-show policies to deal with this phenomenon.

I simply don’t understand the mindset that necessitates this.

You would think with all the technology we have at our disposal these days, it would be easier to respond and follow through for invitations and appointments, but apparently the opposite is proving true.

Technology makes things more impersonal, makes it easier to forget the person on the other end of the invitation, the appointment, the statement of belief (here’s the political climate part of this) is in fact a person with feelings, beliefs that might be strongly held (even if they don’t match your own), or demands on their time.

Do I have a solution for this? No. I can only hope to lead by example. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check my calendars – both paper and digital – to make sure I haven’t been standing anyone up while I’ve been writing this.

Have a pleasant evening.


Posted February 1, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

One response to “Etiquette and Courteousness

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  1. amen sister!!! This is getting worse and worse, and I hate to think it is just me turning into my grandmother — Being kind to everyone is part of what politeness is, it takes very little time, much less time than getting angry with the person on the other side of the counter/phone/interaction with a business interaction and having to deal with the fall out. (climbing down now, could go on and on and on …..)

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