Measuring character

My husband works for the cable company.  Years ago he installed cable.  Then he was moved to working the phones when people had issues with their cable or internet.  After a while he became supervisor.  His duties include handling “escalations”, which doesn’t even sound pleasant.  And indeed, it is not.  When a situation escalates, and a customer is enraged and cannot be satisfied, well then he is passed to my husband.  My husband tells me frequently, “I get yelled at all day, every day.”

I came home from an outing with the children the day after Thanksgiving when hubs was supposed to be getting ready for work.  “I’m getting sick,” he told me.  “I think I’m about to call in.”

Good, I thought.  He deserved to not be working, even if it was because he was sick.  He had just worked on Thanksgiving, after his division had decided to stay open every day of the year.

Even after he called in, he stayed on his laptop, responding to emails and making occasional phone calls.  He attempted to make a long-distance phone call to a customer from our home phone, temporarily forgetting that we had canned our long distance service.

“Let me use your phone,” he said, and I surrendered my cell phone to him.

He made a call to an irate customer.  As I cleaned the house, I could hear my husband’s side.  “I understand what you’re asking, sir, but again, we don’t provide that kind of service.  We provide a means to access the internet, but we are not responsible for the viruses on your computers.  I can, however, give you a credit to your account which would assist you in having your computers serviced…”

And as I tuned in and out, I heard some variation of this message offered several more times.  Finally, my husband got off the phone and retreated to bed.

Several hours later, my phone rang.

“Can I speak to M?” asked the voice at the other end.

I hesitated, then realized that this had been his customer from earlier.  “He’s unavailable right now,” I responded.

His tone turned incredulous:  “Is this his home number?”

“Yes sir, it is.  He’s sick today but was doing some work from home.”

“(Contemptuous snort) …He does work at X Company right?”

“Yes sir, he does.  May I give him a message?”

“Well, you can ask him, if X Company is not responsible for my computers, why are they….” and this is where I tuned out because I could not understand a word of what he was saying, but I think it was something about his registry.

“I’ll ask him to call you, sir.”

And with that I was able to conclude a very unpleasant conversation.  I registered some surprise over the tone of this call.  I have always known about the unpleasantness that my husband experiences at work, but was still disheartened to know that a customer, even an irate one, would discover that he had accidentally contacted the unsuspecting wife of a representative and still maintain such a badgering demeanor.

And all was forgotten until just today, when a colleague called me for another colleague’s number.  I scrolled through my phone, noting that although I had spoken with this person recently, I had not stored her number.

I located a recently dialed number that seemed familiar, and called it.  I hung up upon hearing an older gentleman’s voice mail greeting.  Then my phone rang, and I answered.

“Uh, someone just called me from this number,” and then he stated his name.

You can see where this is going.  It was the irate customer.

Only this time, he was not so irate.

“I’m sorry,” I told him.  “I was trying to call a friend and dialed the wrong number.”

“Oh,” he said, warmly, “well who were you trying to reach?”

“Well, I was trying to call a friend of mine.  But you’re not her.”

He laughed heartily.  “Well thank goodness for that!  I used to do home repairs, maybe you were one of my customers?  Did you select the wrong contact, or did you misdial?”

“Oh, I misdialed.”  A lie, I know, but a necessary one.

“Oh, OK,” he said merrily.  “You have a good day!”

And once again, our conversation was over.

And that got me to thinking about the many ways that you might measure a person’s character.  Perhaps an indicator for a person’s true character – and I don’t mean how they wish to be perceived, but the core of their being – exists in how he treats his mother.  Or how he treats his children.  How he treats his dog.

When I was a waitress, I thought a person’s character was pretty identifiable not in how he behaved in church, but how he treated his server when he went to lunch after church, when none of his peers were around to witness his behavior.

Maybe the measure of a persons character can be found in the way that he treats people who are not in a position to respond in kind.  When no one is around to see or hear, and he dials a number to lodge a complaint, and the conversation is heard by no one other than  himself and the paid employee at the other end of the line.

Maybe then, you get to see what a person is made of.


About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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8 Responses to Measuring character

  1. The fact that your husband called him from his personal line when he was home sick – didn’t that register? That is great customer service and a dedicated/concerned employee. What a jerk!

  2. Joyce- Your husband sounds like such a patient, hard-working man. I totally admire that. I’ve dealt with a few customer service type calls in my lifetime. It’s amazing how rude some people can be to a complete stranger who is only attempting to help. You’re spot on about how to judge a person’s character.

    – K.

    • Joyce says:

      I think that people treat those in customer service in a way that they would never dare to treat anyone else. It’s a shame.

      • Absolutely. When people reach out to customer service they are usually at their boiling point – frustrated and angry with a product or service. However, everyone should remember that there is another human being on the other end of the phone who deserves to be addressed with respect and kindness.

        – K.

  3. Wow, what an insightful post! Your husband is amazing too!

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