December 30, 2008 – New Year’s Resolution & the Right Golden Rule

Today I had an efficient, surprising and cordial transaction with a voice mail system and a bureaucrat employed by the Social Security Administration. The only annoying part was when I looked on the SSA website afterwards and couldn’t find any place to send a complimentary message!

Anyone in a service profession, retail business or politics knows that dissatisfied clients/customers/constituents will tell 10 people about their bad experience, but hardly anyone talks about efficient service. Admittedly I did not have a complicated problem with my aunt’s account, but given the horror stories I’ve read (remember those talkative dissatisfied constituents?) I was prepared to spend most of the day on the phone doing battle. At first it didn’t sound promising – the voice recognition portion of the mail system insisted when I tried to “say and spell “Carolyn” that I was saying “Darolyn.” The efficient part was it had the good programming to stop asking me to repeat myself after the second try and moved on to the next question. Way to go, programmers!

After gathering basic information for the transaction, the automated system naturally assured me that calls were answered in the order received, and warned my wait would be over 10 minutes. The surprise was when I was given an option to leave a call back number and assured I wouldn’t lose my place in line, or I could continue to hold. It was hard to hang up and trust a call would come, but it was easier to trust than enter voice mail limbo and listen to a repetitive recording assuring me my call was important. Surprise again when I did receive a return call, within 15 minutes, from a cordial bureaucrat named Carol who understood why I had called and answered my questions cheerfully. Yay, Carol!

As we head into the New Year and the new legislative session in Olympia, I resolve to remember to compliment as often as complain, and if a complaint exists then to bring it forward with a solution. Isn’t that how we’d all like to be treated? Amazing how the golden rule would really make life much more pleasant and productive.

For the cynics, that would be God’s golden rule, not the one about he who has the gold makes the rules! That may be true, but it sure doesn’t contribute to improving our quality of life, our economy or our government. To paraphrase Hill Street Blues - let's be positive out there.