In my early twenties, I worked in different tourism outlets around the world. In 1996 I found myself working for Tourism British Columbia where, for eight hours a day, I’d answer the calls of people needing answers about the provence. And if they needed reservations – from hotels to tours – I could do that too.
There was one particular call that I answered that stays with me almost twenty years later and continues to influence me throughought my days.
A woman called in one morning, furious because she wanted to cancel a reservation on a hotel and was cancelling within 24hrs of her expected arrival. This meant that she would not be getting her deposit on her room back. And she wanted it.
I explained to her the policies, I explained why she wasn’t going to get it back but the more I tried to be ‘helpful’, the more she yelled and the more angry she became.
“I want to speak to your manager,” she said. I knew my managers. They were neither availble nor would they be helpful. And they wouldn’t tell her anything different. When I tried to explain that they weren’t avaible, she yelled even more. So I told her, “one moment, please.”
I put her on hold for about two minutes. In that time I took a deep breath. I stood up and shook myself out. I sat down, I smiled, picked up the phone and said, “Hullo, how can I help you?”
The woman on the phone began to rely to me (again) her predicament. I calmly listened, I empathized, I did everything I had done before – including giving her the same answer.
She paused and then said, “I understand. Thank you for your time and your help”, then we hung up.
Anyone that has spoken with me would hear that I have a pretty distinct accent and that I am absolutely terrible and impersonating others. So the call as myself and as ‘my manager’ were done in the exact voice, the same language, the same mannerisms. I never gave another name, I never said I was a manager. All that had changed was her expectation and perception of the situation.
And that was enough.