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Do you shoot the messenger?

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My wife and I recently refinanced our home with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. David, the representative we worked with through the entire process, provided us with great service along the way. As is often the case with refinancing, we had some frustrations along the way, but David did a great job of communicating and being proactive in addressing questions and issues.

The morning of our closing, I was going through our paperwork and was shocked to find that the closing costs on the paperwork I received in the mail did not match the costs discussed in previous conversations I had with David. Confused, I called and left a message requesting some clarification. I did get a call back and David explained that there had been a mistake. The loan had not been processed correctly and they had to scramble to make corrections. The result was that my wife and I sat in the office of the closing agent for 45 minutes while she waited for the corrected documents to be sent.

These types of situations create a dilemma for customers who deal with the representatives of large corporations. Overall, we were really pleased with David's service and I believe that it was not his fault that the loan was processed incorrectly, which was the responsibility of a completely different department. I was dissatisfied with the experience, but I felt it was inappropriate to "shoot the messenger." I chose to communicate my dissatisfaction in the follow up survey where I could differentiate my ratings for the overall experience from the representative who assisted us.

I regularly coach Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) to recognize and understand that they are "representatives" of the company for whom they work. When customers take out their frustration on the CSR who answers the phone, it is important for CSRs to recognize that it is not personal with the CSR. Let's say I call Wells Fargo customer service and a CSR named Brenda answers the phone. If my wife walks into the room and asks who I am speaking with, I tell her I'm talking to "Wells Fargo," not "Brenda." It's an important distinction that CSRs must learn and accept in their role as a corporate representative.

At the same time, as an advocate for CSRs everywhere, I try to remind consumers that it is important for us to recognize the same differentiation when working with CSRs on the phone. Acknowledge to the CSR that your frustrations are not personally directed at the CSR, but with the company they represent. Ask the CSR how else you can communicate your issue or complaint to the CSRs superiors so that it will be heard. Make use of customer feedback and surveys, especially using opportunities to answer open ended questions to provide specifics about your experience and frustration.

In a time when public discourse appears to be descending into angry epithets tossed about in tweets and texts, every consumer has the opportunity to buck the trend and raise the standard by communicating our frustrations appropriately. And of course, we all have the opportunity to ultimately communicate our displeasure by letting our feet do the communicating for us as we walk away to do business with a competitor.

- Tom Vander Well

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