Once again I was looking for something to blog about and it falls into my lap.  Thank you blogging Gods.  Anyhoo, I woke up Friday morning to discover that our electricity was out.  I sprang into action like any sensible person would at 7AM, and went downstairs to see if by chance the espresso machine had somehow survived and would work even when all indications were that this would not be my lucky day. Then I did all the usual with the switches and the electrical set-up, lots of switching things on and off and checking to see if anything happened (yes, you can hire me for this!).  Nothing worked.

I checked with my neighbor who looked a bit shocked to see me in my yard wearing my robe with my hair sticking straight up in the air and discovered that he had the same problem.  No one else on the street was out in their yard yet so we didn’t know if we were the only ones or not.  He had already called about the outage.  I looked up the info online (thank you mobile internet!) and decided to take action.

I called something called the Nationaal Storingsnummer; it’s a sort of hotline where you can register these types of outages.  As instructed by the recorded voice, I entered my zip code into the phone and was transferred immediately to an agent with a very deep voice who proceeded to ask me for…you guessed it…my zip code.  Once he had it, he stated he would transfer me to the energy management company.  Feeling frisky, I asked “what’s the added value of this service?”.  He said, “when you don’t get transferred automatically to the energy management company, we enter your zip code and transfer your call.”  Wow! I decided not to go there.

I am now merrily speaking to someone at the energy management company, Stedin.  I explained that we had had an outage since very early in the morning.  His reaction: “why didn’t you call earlier?”  Mentally thanking him for his concern I explained the situation.  His answer: “We will take action!”. I politely asked him what that meant.  He explained that it was self-explanatory.  I explained politely that it was not self-explanatory.  He explained that if this wasn’t self-explanatory, nothing was.  I, somewhat less politely, explain that I would like to know what ‘action’ meant.  That if he could for a minute think about this from my perspective, perhaps we could make some progress.  I explained that I wanted to know for example if someone would need to visit us and enter the house; i.e. do I need to stay home today?  I never got a straight answer about what it meant for me and decided to go  about my business-as-usual, which today meant laying on the couch reading a book.

The answer he should have given me was “yes, someone will come by and want to check your electrical circuits”.  A service person visited my neighbor and me, and indeed needed to enter the houses to investigate where the problem was coming from.  Luckily I was home (actually I should say luckily I was dressed) and he was able to gain access to everything he needed to in order to investigate thoroughly.

In the end, he did some magic that reinstated our electricity and explained that they would need to come back to do work in front of the houses.  He explained everything thoroughly and pleasantly and left me happy. To the espresso machine!

Now, about this whole experience…there’s work to be done at the Nationaal Storingsnummer and at Stedin.  Learning to understand customers and how these outages affect them can help to deliver a better service and to reassure customers.  There’s emotion involved. My neighbor was concerned about his food in the freezer; he’s retired and these things are important to him.  I was more concerned about being able to use the phone, internet, the espresso machine, etc.  Two different perspectives from two different types of customers with two different concerns stemming from the same problem.  A little well-placed empathy goes a long way. 

Thinking about what the consequences are for your customer can also ensure a smoother business process; in my case I could have left the house and the service person would not have been able to research the problem because the only information the person on the phone gave me was that they would ‘take action’. That’s vague which is bad for them and bad for me as it won’t speed up turning their ‘action’ into my ‘solution’.

Enough blogging for one day. I’m going to take action and make myself a cappuccino now.

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