Knock Yourself Out!

I was on site with a trade’s services customer a few weeks ago and it was full on as always – that seems to be the case with good suppliers. They offer both B2C and B2B services and are moving away from B2C and for good reason as I discovered. The work I do is all based around behaviours and how to optimise the best outcomes for all person to person interactions, regardless of the permutation of the interaction. This firm is brilliant in that they emphatically get this concept and have embedded ‘calm’ into the DNA of how they ‘do things around here’. Interestingly their core service is electrical services and their mission statement is ‘we’re switched on around here’ and they so are. As a result, their business has flourished and the phone runs hot with recommendations.

Back to the story. I was in the admin office, talking with Jo (not real name) the Office Manager, when Phil (not real name) the GM walked through, Jo excused herself and said, “Phil I have just had a Mrs Green on the phone and she is having a fit because we charged her out of hours rates and she claims her call was not out of hours. I’ve emailed you the ‘story’ if you wouldn’t mind getting back to her because she is threatening VCAT”. Phil, without breaking stride, said: “OK I’ll get back to her now”. He turned back to his office and Jo continued her conversation with me.

Mrs Green, it seems called with an emergency (a light switch that had failed) at 5 pm (after hours) and demanded that the electrician come immediately. The protocol with this organisation for any after hour’s calls is to explain to the person that they will incur an out of hours change and if they want to go ahead and have a service person attend they will need to agree to the service charge. Otherwise, the service call will be made within hours of the next day. This was noted in the service schedule.

Mrs Green had agreed, the service call was made, the switch repaired and all was well, seemingly. Mrs Green was sent the invoice which included the after-hours surcharge, and she took umbrage with the surcharge because 5 pm was not out of hours according to her. Trade hours are 7 am to 3.30pm and service calls outside of those hours incur a surcharge which was explained and she had agreed to – the service call simply would not have been made if she had not agreed.

Phil called her straight back and listened to her rant, she was rude, caustic and vitriolic and Phil could not get a word in. However, as part of the behaviour training, I advise people that should a situation such as what was occurring arise, the best way to deal with it is to let the person have their rant. What will happen is that literally the person ranting will run out of air – it is simple physiology – they run out of air and then stop. So on cue, Mrs Green ran out of puff and stopped whereupon Phil began to respond.

He agreed with her that yes VCAT would be a good idea if that made her feel better. Then he added – “there are a few things that I want to bring to your attention; are you aware that the person bringing the dispute to VCAT is responsible for costs? As has been explained we only attend out of hour calls once we have explained the surcharge and the person agrees to pay and gives us the go-ahead to make the service call, which we have in our system and therefore there is no case for us to answer. I will leave that up to you to decide the course of action you would like to take, but remind you that the account is due to go to the debt collectors and it will go away once you have paid”. Once again Mrs Green was speechless and then hung up.

Effectively Mrs Green had knocked herself out – she was being completely irrational and utterly unreasonable and the strategy executed by Phil literally resulted in her knocking herself out. A further outcome was that the account was paid the next week. The motto of the story is when confronted by these types of vitriolic people who go on a rant – let them knock themselves out.