Greetings. Many of you will recall the theme song for the very popular TV show "Cheers"–a classic comedy from the 1980's about a group of friends who hang out at a Boston tavern. The title of the song (and the essential theme of the show) was the simple and important notion that we all want to be "Where Everybody Knows Your (or 'Our') Name." It's a really powerful idea that speaks to the very nature of belonging, being part of something and of connecting with others in our various "communities" in some meaningful way.
So it should come as no surprise that all the companies and organizations we deal with would like to know our names. And not just our first names but also our last names. In fact, they'd like a lot more information about us than simply our names but that's a topic worthy of another blog post.
Which means that a typical interaction with Verizon, Apple, Johnson & Johnson or most other businesses will begin with their representative asking us what our name is "so we can better assist you." But shouldn't we also know their names in case we need to follow up, sing their praises or refer back to a service experience that has gone less than perfectly? Seems reasonable enough, unless you happen to be part of the customer service team at Wells Fargo. Now I know that I wrote about them recently, but they continue to provide amazing insight on how not to provide great service. Insight that should be beneficial to all of us. And my latest request for help was another case in point on how some companies don't actually give a _ _ _ _ or a Flying Walenda about their customers.
It turns out that I needed a simple document–i.e., a copy of the modification for my home equity credit line–and called Wells Fargo to get their assistance. After dutifully following two minutes and forty-six seconds (but whose counting) worth of prompts I was excited when an actual human picked up the phone. "Hi, this is Rachel," she began, followed by "Can I start with your first and last name?" Then after a few essential security questions talk turned to the required document. It was a legal document that I was told could not be faxed or emailed directly to me because "it had to go to a secure fax machine." And when I told Rachel that our office fax machine was "pretty darn secure," she disagreed and indicated that I would have to have it sent to the fax machine at our local branch–something she would do the following day. "Okay," I said realizing that I didn't have the time or blood pressure to change her opinion of the security of our fax machine. And then I asked if I could have her full name and contact information just in case I needed to call back. "We're not allowed to give out our last names," she replied, "and we don't have direct phone numbers or our own email addresses." Wow! I thought. No last names and no way to be contacted directly. Is that a tragic predicament for a customer service representative or what?
The next day I headed to our local Wells Fargo branch to pick up the fax. A fax that, had it actually been sent, would have arrived at an exceedingly unsecure fax machine located right in the middle of the branch–just a few feet from the queue where everyone waits for a teller. And when no one at the branch offered to call Rachel to find out what had happened to my document, I headed back to call myself. But there was no way to get Rachel on the phone. Instead, I got David who asked for my first and last name, along with a set of security questions, so he could pull up my record. A record that included no mention of my conversation with Rachel. And given that it included no notes stating that Rachel had found the desired document and was planning to send it to the secure fax machine at my branch, David quickly told me that he would be unable to help. His reason was the belief that it would simply take too long to search on-line for this document and that I would have to talk with someone in the Line Management Department of the bank. "Can you connect me to them directly?" I asked. "No," he replied, "I'll give you the phone number" (so you can be put on hold by their office). "Before we get off, can I have your last name and contact information," I inquired, "just in case I need to follow up?" "We're not allow to give out our last names," he noted, "and there is no way to contact us directly." "But you do have a last name," I continued. "Yes I do." "That's a relief," I concluded, hoping that there weren't an entire subculture of people in America without last names who were condemned to work at Wells Fargo.
Then after three minutes and thirty-seven seconds of being on hold at the new number I got through to LuAnn. And while she also had only a first name, she was kind, thoughtful and somehow figured out how to find the document and fax it directly to me. If only I knew her last name, I'd be delighted to send a letter to the CEO singing her praises as the one person at Wells Fargo who actually cares about customers. And if only she knew her last name, she'd be able to take her skills to another company that might share her commitment to customers.
We win in business and in life when we are eager to know the names of people we have the privilege to serve. And when we are eager to let them know our names too.