On Dec. 3rd of last week, I called Verizon Wireless Customer Service for a quick phone swap. The customer rep said “How are you?” I said “I’m good, how are you?” and the rep said “I’m doing well. By the way, thanks for asking that.” I laughed at the unexpected response.
After the phone swap, she asked “Is there any other question or concern?” I asked “Do people normally not ask you how you are?” and she answered “Some do, and some don’t. Most don’t, so I feel it’s significant enough to acknowledge those considerate enough to ask.” I said “Thank you for acknowledging.” and she went “Oh, no problem. That’s just how I am. I think people should be acknowledged.” After exchanging good byes, I hung up, inspired.
What I realized in that moment was that we often forget that those behind customer service lines are dignified human beings worthy of our respect and consideration. To be clear, this isn’t because we are malicious or mean. It’s because we’re flooded with emotion when we call them or we’re focused so narrowly on achieving a goal that we perceive the customer reps as a means to our end.
Having transitioned from being a designer to a meta-designer, I’m reminded once again that focusing on user experience is not enough. The user is not whom we serve. What we serve is the relationship. And relationships are made of a continuous and dynamic give and take of conversation, which can only be given life if we are awake enough in each and every moment to at least notice whether we are respecting or not, whether we are considering or not. That is what the design practice asks of us. How we respond to that ask, of course, is up to us.
Easier said than done, isn’t it?
Thank you Gailshen A. Thanks to your appreciation and acknowledgement, I was given the opportunity to pause and reflect. That is so much more than what I expected to get out of a phone swap. It was a beautiful experience. It was a display of genuine leadership. It was a wonderful example of a micro-innovation.
May you stay beautiful,
Seung Chan Lim
photo credit: Phil Dowsing Creative