Every now and then, one gets the urge to blog about something that ... well... maybe one ought not. Today is one of those days. (Well, actually, I had this day a couple of days ago, drafted a blog entry, and have let it stew. This post is what happens when you get that urge, let it stew, and edit it a bit before hitting "publish", but don't let it stew long enough to do the smart thing and keep your mouth shut).
As you may or may not know, I'm quietly job-hunting. Among the upheavals the past year has brought to ShadowLand has been an abrupt and unintended, and therefore premature, retirement. This means that we're not as financially comfortable as we would most like to be. Thus, I'm trying to return to the real-time job market. This is relevant only because it explains why I had the following experience:
Taking full advantage of the joys of the internet, I've applied for a few jobs using sites like Monster.com. A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a search firm, evidently related to one of those applications. I had a lovely, long telephone interview with a fellow who was trying to place someone in a Customer Service Supervisory position here in town. We discussed my customer service experience, my experience in training/teaching, my supervisory experience, etc. etc. I felt pretty good about the whole thing.
At the end of our call, he told me that he'd like to keep in touch with me over the next two weeks as he would be setting up interviews at the employer's site in that time frame. I felt even better about the whole thing. I hung up having been given the impression that he thought I would be a good fit for the position, and that barring a flood of folks who were a much better fit, the likelihood was high that I'd be one of the folks he called to interview with his client (to whom, of course, he only sends his best candidates).
I tried not to be impatient. I placed other calls, applied to other places, but held out hopes of hearing from this person. After all, he had said that he wanted to stay in touch over the next couple of weeks.
Last Monday, I had the pleasure of interviewing for a different job -- one that feels very like I will love it, working for a fellow whose philosophy I admire and share. I'm trying very hard not to build my hopes up for that position too much, because I know that he still has a swack of folks to talk to before he reaches a decision. I have no doubt that he will get back to me, one way or the other, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be joining his team.
In the mean time, since I am trying to be a responsible job-seeker, I followed up and the end of last week with the first fellow. As you may recall, this was for a customer service related job. Our phone call went something like this:
Me: Hi, I'm calling to follow up on the customer service supervisor position that you had talked to me about two weeks ago. You had indicated that you wanted to stay in touch over these two weeks, and since that time is running out, I thought I'd call to see how that search was coming.
Him: Oh yes... we had two folks interview for that and.... let me see... yes, that was filled on the 19th.
Him: So what is it you wanted?
(We will ignore, for the moment, that I had already answered that question. We will assume that since that job was filled, and thus no longer important to him, he skipped right past the part of my initial statement that indicated curiosity about a position he'd already filled.)
Me: Well, I guess I'm kind of surprised not to have heard from you about that position, since you'd told me that you wanted to stay in touch over those two weeks as you set up the interviews. I guess I thought you'd have told me that you were no longer considering me.
Him: So, you were looking at customer service work, right? is this phone call really demonstrating that you'd be a good fit for that? Is this really how you want to handle a conversation with someone who might be a good resource for you in finding a job?
Me: (pause) For a customer service supervisor? Yes. because it demonstrates that I would make sure that the customer service personnell working under me would not leave our customers hanging; I'd be sure they followed up on every situation where they'd created an expectation of hearing back.
Him: But you aren't my customer. Job seekers arent' my customers; the employers are.
[CUSTOMER SERVICE FAIL]
I guess I was trained differently. It's my understanding that everyone with whom you interact is your customer: your boss, your co-worker, your subordinate, your clients, the people with whom you interact on behalf of your client, even the UPS guy. My bad.
Clearly, I have higher expectations for customer service than many folks do. I worry about this country and this time because of what I see in folks' perceptions of what it means to be in a job where customer service is part of the equation. The first issue that bugs me is the fact that people seem to have lost track of whether their jobs involve customer service at all. A lot of that comes from how one defines "customer", but some comes from what seems like a dwindling of the concept of service. And that's the second issue: We all seem to want to be served, but no one seems to want to serve. Oddly, if we all worked more on serving, and less on demanding good service, we'd probably all receive better service.
Alas, I have this pro-active tendency to follow up when I feel that a person who should have been doing at least a little service in his job has utterly failed to do so. I find the supervisor, and talk to them abou the issue. (Note, my goal is never to get the person in question in trouble, but to find out where my expectations were wrong, and to help the supervisor help his or her staff do a better job, which in turn helps other customers.)
I'm sure you're not suprised to learn that I followed up on my disappointing phone call by calling and asking to speak to a supervisor. I explained what happened, and asked for clarifications on what my expectations should have been. As it turns out, they try to get interviewees to the employers within two day thus, my expectation that the two week contact time would be related to the particular job about which he called me was unrealistic. Alas, all I had to go on was what he told me; and what he told me led me to believe that I was actually in the running for the job I'd applied for. Additionally, since they never send people to their clients without having had an in-person interview, the fact that he didn't set up such an interview with me for the next day was a clear indication that he'd not actually be considering me for THAT job. Alas, again, I only had his statement to go on, and his statememt was grossly misleading given the two to three day turnaround time he'd forgotten to mention.
She apologized that the lad had given me unrealistic expectations. I shared with her my philosophy of who one defines as "customer", and she seemed to agree with me. I told her that when I was in supervisory positions, I appreciated when I learned about situations in which people walked away from an encounter with my staff that left a bad taste in their mouths - it let me review stuff with the staff so that it didn't happen again. The fellow's supervisor seemed to agree with me on that front as well. Evidently, my expectations for customer service aren't THAT much higher than hers -- just his.
So, I may have burned a bridge with respect to finding gainful employment. I'm okay with that as long as somehow, his supervisor can help him work on creating realistic expectations when he talks to people, and maybe even following up on the expectations he creates. At least then no one else will feel as let down by their company as I was.