There was recently a blog post about noticing good customer handling skills, and it struck me as particularly poignant as I had just returned home after an experience that was almost the complete opposite.  I had arranged to visit a customer that was in the middle of a major UK city.  I rang ahead to ensure that I could park on site, as there is nowhere to park within sensible working distance of this client’s building.  I was told to present myself at the entrance barrier where they would let me in.  

On arrival, however, I was told that I was not permitted to enter their site and would have to park elsewhere.  The nearest public car park was about half a mile away, too far to carry my toolbox and spares.

I did not feel that it was my place to argue with the officious jerk. To stand and argue with doormen and security guards is a fruitless experience, because they are programmed to follow their instruction cards, much as the punch card reader of yesteryear — to deviate from the programming is to invite errors. So, I asked him to pass a message to the person I was due to meet, explaining why I hadn’t arrived as planned, and left.  

Luckily, I had another job in that city, so the three-hour drive wasn’t totally wasted.  I was banking on my contact doing all the necessary arguing on my behalf.  I was about half a mile away when my phone rang, and the customer advised me that they had found me a space after all, so I completed my other job and returned.  

The barrier opened for me, and I drove in to see a parking space with my name on it!  I signed in, and there was a contractor’s pass made out in my name.  The first security officer was nowhere to be seen.  I did the work and was on my way home in less than 30 minutes.  I felt that it was not my place to argue with the security droid, because it would have more impact if the complaint came from within the organization.  

Driving away is a tactic I have employed more than once.  On one occasion, I asked the person involved to inform the customer that I wouldn’t be able to return for two weeks, as I was going on holiday.  That customer called me back before I had gone more than a mile!  Too hard on the customer?  Poor customer skills?  I feel that the process is a two-way street.  They had asked for me to be there, I had explained my needs, and those needs were explained for a reason.  Currently, with a displaced shoulder joint, I cannot carry heavy objects great distances, so my request for a parking space was not a trivial one.  The customer had agreed then failed to inform the guard, therefore I left it for him to sort it out.