Many times as metermen and as lineman we have to have conversations with the customers of our utility. When dealing with the public it is important to remember a few things. If you are able to remember these things whenever you are dealing with the public, your conversations and your situations are bound to go much more smoothly.
The first rule to dealing with the public should go without saying but it is to be polite. I know that there are times when a customer is irate. They are yelling and cussing and sometimes you just want to yell back. But, this will only make them more angry. Be polite and courteous, use your yes sirs and no sirs and be respectful. Many times we do not know what customers are going through. Most of the time they are not mad at you. They are most of the time going through something and you are just there for them to vent, which leads to my second point.
When dealing with the public, espescially for a high bill complaint, one of the best things to do is listen. This can be difficult for some of us but many times if the customer has gone to the trouble to request a field visit they want someone who they can talk to face to face. They are tired of talking with people on the phone and they just want someone there to listen. Listening carefully to the customer can also help you solve their problem more quickly and efficiently.
When dealing with the public it pays to have done your homework. Now, I am still referring to dealing with the public as if you were working for and electric utility but this really works for any utility or industry as well. When you are going out to someone’s property or place of business you need to be prepared. Look over their bill history, see how many times they have called in the past, talk to a few of the people in the office and see if there is anything that you should be aware of before you head out. Look in the notes in the computer system and see if there is anything that you should know ahead of time.
When dealing with the public, this will show the customer that you care about their case and it will go a long way in easing some of their stress.
When dealing with the public, you also need to try to empathize with the customer. Try to show them that the company cares about them and the company is not out to get them.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had customers say of the craziest things about the utility. There are people out there who actually think that the utility would single them out and make their bill higher than everyone else. They do not believe that it could be their fault. When dealing with the public it is good to know your companies policies so that you can explain them to the customer.
What do you do if you cannot calm a customer down or you feel threatened? When dealing with the public as a meter tech or as a lineman, most of the time we are on the customer’s property. If at anytime the customer threatens you or you do not feel that you can resolve the situation, my advice is to leave the property. Advise your superiors of what has transpired. This way they can be ready to deal with the phone call from an angry customer. If the customer asks for your bosses phone number or contact information then give it to them freely and leave the premises.
Finally, we need to remember that when we are dealing with the public that we are ambassadors of our company. When they see us they see the company. We need to be dressed neatly. Now this does not mean that we have to wear a suit and tie. This means that we need to tuck in our shirts from time to time. Also, if you have a company uniform, wear it. This gives you credibility in the customer’s eyes. If you have an identification badge the show it to the customer or wear it so that it is visible. If you have a company vehicle, park it so that it is visible.
Dealing with the public can be difficult sometimes. But it can also be rewarding when you can help solve someone’s problems.
Use these tools next time you have to deal with the public. You will see that your customer service skills will have dramatically improved.