Years ago, an NEA team member worked for a large auto insurance company as a claims service representative. He was part of the front line team responsible for taking accident reports from the company’s customers. It was a low-paying, high-stress job, held by a motley staff of college students, teachers, and working moms.
The team occupied a small corner of a cavernous office, held captive by a dinging bell that indicated an insured on the line waiting to file an accident report. On a busy day, the bell would sound incessantly, and team members would hit *7 in Pavlovian fashion to pick up their next call.
Working under stress brought out the best—and worst—in the team members. Most worked hard to complete the accident reports fully and accurately, while expressing empathy for the customers who suffered losses. Other team members behaved poorly . . . deliberately disconnecting consumers in the phone queue, pounding desks with their fists when dealing with difficult customers, and even deliberately sabotaging files.
In one case, a member took a voluminous accident file—one in which there had been a fatality—into the men’s room, ripped its hundred pages into tiny pieces, and then flushed them down the toilet. We offer this story to suggest that customer service isn’t just a matter of having service standards and then hiring, training, motivating, and supervising customer-service personnel. It’s also about dealing with the dark side of human behavior—the tendency of certain people to behave badly—unethically—while serving customers. You must anticipate this dark side in order to deliver exceptional service. And if you succeed at this, you will also great reduce your errors-and-omissions risk exposure.