The assistant at my veterinarian's office would not fax a copy of my dog's rabies certificate to the town office explaining (in a tone), "We are far too busy an office to send faxes." She did photocopy it and leave it for me at the desk to pick up, but faxing was out of the question. I explained it meant I had to drive across town to pick it up, but that changed nothing.
1. Are you "too busy" to fax? How about too busy to answer email? Do you tell members that? I don't think callers need to know about the staff workload. Maybe if the request would take hours to compile, it makes sense to explain an inability to do something -- but not things that could take 1-5 minutes to handle.
2. Does something happen to your tone when you're really busy? (Aren't we always really busy?) A little friendliness in the voice and "happy to help you" can go a long way.
3. Why make it harder for someone to get what they need? My first problem in this scenario is that my town hasn't activated online dog license renewals, as many other towns have done. The faxed form was only one way that could have saved me time in the process. Do we have unnecessary impediments to providing members with anything they may need?
4. "I'm sorry to bother you, but ... " I always cringe when members start calls or emails apologizing for bothering me. I do remind them that they pay a lot of money in dues, and it's no bother at all, they can contact me as often as they want. And I mean it. I'm grateful for my job, and I only have it because I'm willing to help a whole lot of people when they ask. And that's what I'm paid to do. Not a bother.
And separately, I did think it takes longer for the vet's office to photocopy a form, leave it in an envelope, then interact with one more person in line ... than to just fax it. But hey, why not make it harder for herself too?
Great post and something to keep in mind when working with association volunteers. I think many times associations forget about the multiple time constraints of our members. We get wrapped up in our own deadlines to remember how much they have going on in their non-association world.
I read this post yesterday, but I'm still upset about it so I had to post. I would be furious too! I even think she could've faxed it to you in the time it took to say she was too busy. Come on.
But you bring up very good points for everyone to think about. Even if you're not technically in a customer-service position, everyone works with other people. Do unto others... right?
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