Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taking Care

Well, with the changes these past few weeks; unemployment, changes in benefits and services, and my son finally discharged from the hospital today, I've had an avalanche of intake experiences. I am living in uncertainty. I am not sure what the future holds, I don't know which applications will succeed, and who will get back to me. Most of the time I keep my sense of balance, but it is awfully easy to be pushed over the edge. This happens very quickly if a service representative is cool, or if I sense the crushing gears of bureaucracy grinding ever closer....
So far, no calls from potential employers. The pleasant strangers I have been talking to are all bureaucrats. It's a sad state of affairs, isn't it, when the bureacracy is a well-oiled and efficient machine, quick to snap me up? In the past couple weeks, I've talked to two insurance representatives, Blue Cross, Shaw, nurses and physiotherapists at the University of Alberta Hospital and the General, and Service Canada.
Most of the service representatives were sensitive that I was in some degree of anxiety, and behaved accordingly. Their tone was kind and they gave me their full attention for our short time together. A notable exception was one of a pair of counter clerks at Service Canada Northgate location here in Edmonton. I headed for the kind looking one. His bouncy, pimply-faced partner, however, still managed to distract. The other one bounced in and out of his chair, up and around the counter several times. During my sixty minute stay as I worked through the online form, he bounded down the row of terminals...checking...on our progress...I guess. I wondered how a hyperactive like him could have been so mismatched.
I received a mildly disturbing call from Service Canada within a day. They found a mismatch on my last name. Not surprising as I haven't accessed their services in over two decades. The operator would not say what the mismatch was - I understand why - they want to take care that no fraud is taking place. I explained my change in name and I was advised to get it updated, in person, at the local Service Alberta counter. Be sure to bring two pieces of ID, my birth and wedding certificates. So I get another opportunity to observe pimple boy. I wonder if I will get him to "help" me next time, just to see how he holds up.
The Shaw support technician could not have been nicer. I'd struggled to re-establish internet service for over an hour and the technician guided me through the steps in short order. What struck me most of all is he sounded genuinely happy to help me, that he was having a great day, and he was glad to help me have one, too.
What is the moral in all this? These service encounters are critical, both for the peace of mind of the people seeking help, and to the image of the organization. Do they care? Do they show that they care? The service representative must be empowered and motivated to provide the kindest, most helpful service possible.
The picture comes from a YouTube clip, "Bureaucracy" by dudayadna.