Objects In Motion

Yesterday evening, while I was driving to the curling club, my phone started to hum with incoming messages.  The transportation head had finally deigned to respond to me, saying he’d get back in touch with me by noon.  The CEO of BCPSS followed by telling him to contact me sooner, and he asked if he could call me at 9.

Now… I don’t like dealing with these kinds of things over the phone.  I prefer to have a written trail to document what was discussed… but I also know well enough that it would drag the process out, so I agreed.

So at 8:45 this morning, the head of transportation called me at the office.

The very long story short, the man doesn’t know how to do customer service.  There are a few things you should do when you’re calling an angry customer:

  • Sympathize with how the customer is feeling, especially if there is a clear “wrong”.  The bus being an hour late to pick up the kids is an indisputable fact, and he can be sorry about it.
  • Restate the problem to ensure that you understand what the customer perceives is wrong.  In this case, confirm that he understood that what I’m angry about.
  • Give reasonable steps that can be taken to try to fix the perceived wrong, or explain why the customer is mistaken, without making excuses.

Things you should not do:

  • Expect the customer to sympathize with you or your difficulties.
  • Tell the customer that they’re wrong to feel how they feel.
  • Ignore information being given to you by the customer about the situation and why they feel how they feel.

Yeah… so he started out by telling me he was out of the office on Friday and that he responded last night because of the urgency in my email.  (violating rule #3 and no-no #1.)  He then continued to constrain my issue to the Monster, rather than my constant reminder that there are multiple children on the bus (no-no #3) who were all late at the school.  At no point, until I brought up his conduct on the phone, did he express any contrition about the problem, and even then, no real apology was ever given.  (Rule #1)  I did re-iterate, at that point, that I think that the bus company needs to be cut loose, and it’s my opinion that he and his staff should be fired for not doing their jobs properly.

After an outburst on my part, where I lectured him about my perception of the scope of his responsibilities, he asked for a few hours to investigate.  I also demanded a copy of the contract with Durham and the bondholder information.  I agreed to let him call me back at noon.

At noon, the conversation was fairly cut-and-dry:

  • They are looking to see how they can split the Monster’s bus route between other routes.  While his driver is nice and all and tries… the vendor in question is the issue, and they’re talking about taking the route away.  This is only going to be done if it’s the same duration or less than the current route.  We should hear on this Thursday/Friday.
  • demanded a copy of the contract and bondholder information.  It’s public information, and he committed to getting back to me tomorrow morning with the documents or the name of the person to get them from.
  • They are going to look into the performance of Durham Transportation.  Over the course of the morning, I heard stories from other parents in our district about their problems with the same company, and I emphasized on the call that we’re all prepared to go to the local media as a group to describe how we’ve told the district that this company is a problem… and that the district is ignoring us.

However, I ran into a serious problem here.  He emphasized that his job is not just to make sure the busses run on time… and I pointed out that it was part of his job, and that he’s seriously sucking at doing that part of his job.  It’s a lot of data, yes… but he has a staff.  They should be auditing it.  And clearly, they’re not auditing the performance of their contractors if they need a parent to tell them when the bus is an hour late.  At this point, we still don’t agree.  On the topic of the busses getting to their routes on time, we’re still miles apart.  (This involved a long discussion on culture change and the difficulties in getting things to change at an org as large as BCPSS.  I pointed out that he’s known about this problem – in person, from me – for over a year now, and that I was calling bullshit on this as an excuse.)

The fact is, issues with the busses should be invisible to me.  All I should need to know is what time to have my child at the bus stop, and what time to retrieve him from it, regardless of whether my son has a developmental disability or no.  And he’s not getting that.

We’ll see what happens from here.  I’ll keep you all posted.

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