OK, So You’re Not Superman

Political Correctness

Please forgive the title!  I was going to say You’re Not Superman/Girl. Then I thought Superman/Wonder Woman. Both seemed a little too long, and I figured, if you’re still reading, you get what I’m trying to say here…or at least you will.  (Insert Smiley here)

I Am Awesome!  Aren’t you?

Here’s the scenario.  You come into your place of business, with your steaming hot cup of coffee.  You do your daily affirmation which assures you that you’re awesome.  You boot up your computer, adjust your seat, sit back, take a deep breath, and wait for that phone to ring.  You’re confident that the next person you speak to is going to really be able to feel your awesomeness; in fact so much so, that this person is going to ask you for your secret sauce, and you’re going to tell them, “…just be awesome like me!” or “…I have these affirmations…”

Superman Loses His Cape

Then it happens.  Out of left field, the phone rings, and it’s someone on the phone that presents a problem that you have no idea how to even begin to fix.  You watch as your awesomeness flies out of that open window on the other side of the room.  Panic sets in.  You reach for your coffee, which is now cold because you sat it directly under the air conditioning vent.  You’re freezing, but you’re also sweating.  And as you sink closer to the floor, you remember that the chair you’re sitting in has a bad hydraulic lift.

Perhaps your world doesn’t fall apart like this every time you receive a difficult phone call (at least I hope it doesn’t).  I am sure that there have been times when you wished you hadn’t picked up the phone.  The question is…what do you do?  How do you handle that question that you cannot answer?  What do you say to someone, when you just do not know what to say?  Some people resort to lying.  The feeling is that, if they can make their customer think that they have some expertise in the area, it will buy them some time.  Maybe if they can feed them a line or two of technical jargon, it will throw their customers off-track while they think of how to get out of the call.  If they’re lucky, the customer will discover their own answer.

The Service Person Also Rises

As you write a note to yourself to remind you to have someone look at the chair, what if you decided to embrace your humanity and be honest with your customer?  There is one thing that all customers and customer service persons have in common.  ALL of us, no matter what profession, no matter how many degrees we have, no matter anything at all, have ALL been faced with having to get an answer to a question without knowing where to start to get it.  That’s a pretty basic fact of life, but it is one that can really save you in times of trouble, while actually earning you a bit of respect from your customers and co-workers.

So how is this possible?  Typically, people really want to know that you are in their corner.  Most customers, if they have not had a bad experience with you in the past, will be more than happy to allow you the time to research an issue and get back to them as long as you do 3 things:

  • Ensure that you have a full understanding of their needs
  • Set a time expectation for your research and follow up
  • Get back to them when you say you will get back to them, OR SOONER

Do you understand the request?

If you do not know what a person wants, there is no way that you can help them.  That is just common sense, and your customers will appreciate you taking the time to fully understand their concern.  Listen.  Ask probing questions.  Be sure that, when you hang up with them, you fully understand their need, so that you can fulfill it.

How urgent is urgent?

If you take a call from a customer who says to you that they need an answer ASAP, you might want to rethink telling them you’ll call them tomorrow.  There is nothing wrong with managing expectation, but you also need to be realistic.  The last thing you need is for a person to complain to management about your lack of speed (a.k.a interest) in getting their problem resolved.

A good simple response to “I need it right away” could be “OK, I will do the best that I can.  Take my number and if you do not hear from me, call me.”

Yes, I broke the cardinal rule; that unspoken “never give a customer your direct line” rule that we all kind of silently live by.  But, doing so actually takes the pressure off.  NO customer is going to expect for you to give them a way to reach you directly.  Once you do, you have created a trust with them that will not be soon forgotten.  WARNING:  This strategy can backfire sometimes as in, if you’re not careful, you can become their personal service person so be mindful of that, unless you’re an entrepreneur, in which case, you’re it anyway.

How come you don’t call me…?

One of the biggest issues with managing an expectation is failing to hold up your end of the bargain.  If you say you’re going to call back in 30 minutes, call back in 30 minutes or less.  Calling in 5 hours later is a problem.  By that time, your customer has either resolved their own issue, or has decided that it’s not worth continuing with you.  Do what you say you’re going to do.  Under-promise and over-deliver.  No customer can resist an over-delivering service person.

And with that…

Every method of doing things is not for everybody.  Ask yourself, how do things usually go when you’re trying to provide an answer that you just don’t have.  If disaster is the only thing that comes to mind, consider some of the points that I made in this article.  In case you can’t scroll up to read them again:

  • Ensure that you have a full understanding of their needs
  • Set a time expectation for your research and follow up
  • Get back to them when you say you will get back to them, OR SOONER

Above ALL else…BE HONEST!  Customers will see right through a lie.  If you’re honest, they will respect that and may even be willing to work with you, as long as you can assure them that you will be working to get their answer.

Until next time, keep up the awesomeness affirmations while embracing your humanity and GO GET EM!!


I am a career technology and customer service professional. I realized pretty early in life that I was drawn to helping people to help themselves. So, naturally I thought I was going to grow to become a world-renowned psychiatrist. Then I realized that I like to take everything apart to learn how things work; everything that is, except for the human brain so psychiatry was out. 2011, was my 20th year in the fields of computer technology and customer service. I have been a bench technician, a help desk manager, and a lot of other job titles in between. I just recently discovered my love for writing. I have begun several books which I hope to finish in the near future. I am also trying my hand at writing a screenplay. I am excited about the potential of a sight such as this! Thanks for visiting! Hope to see you again!

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2 comments on “OK, So You’re Not Superman
  1. CAROL BROOKS says:

    I just started a new career as a real estate sales agent, and I don’t always know what to say. Thank you! I needed to read this. You just confirmed too me that honesty is the best policy.

    • jbmi2000 says:

      Hey Carol! Congratulations on your new gig! Best of everything to you! Yes, honesty is always best. Customers can empathize with your vulnerability because they face it as well! Thanks for reading!!

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