As we all know, life on the job isn’t always warm and fuzzy, no matter what career you’re in. Some people can be . . . well, to be tame, let’s just say they can be less than pleasant.
In addition to prioritizing her time with front line workers (like accompanying technicians into the field), Colleen Abdoulah, the CEO of WOW!, also listened in on customer calls from time to time. Once, she heard an exchange between one of WOW!’s call representatives and an abusive customer.
“Our rep was doing everything she could to defuse this guy,” Abdoulah said, adding that she knew she had to intervene. “I introduced myself, and I asked the rep to hang up. I said to the customer that ‘if anyone in our organization ever spoke to a customer the way you were speaking to our employee, we would terminate that person.’ And I said, ‘As of this hour, I’m terminating you as a customer. There will be two service technicians at your home to disconnect your service.’ Well, he swore me up one side and down the other and yelled, ‘You can’t do that!’ I said, ‘Yes I can, and if you resist, we’ll have the police there.’”
That really set the man off, calling Abdoulah every name in the book, punctuating his obscenity-laced onslaught with one f-bomb after another, and threatening to go to WOW!’s competition, to which Abdoulah calmly said, “That’s fine, sir. It will be their loss and our gain.”
My friend understood and put in practice a fundamental tenet of responsible leadership: If you’re going to hold your own people to a certain high-standard, you must have their backs and protect them when necessary. That’s a vital way to build trust in a relationship. And it’s important to remember, as Abdoulah put it, “Not all customers are worth serving.”