Practice Praise When Possible

I originally published this post at SBC Voices, but thought I would share it here today.

When we moved to the Black Hills as Mission Service Corps(MSC) Missionaries back in 2003, I managed to find a job at a local call center in Rapid City as a way to help make ends meet. It was an inbound customer service center affiliated with GE and I started out in the department that took service calls from people who had appliances under service contracts or warranties. I won’t bore you with the details, but those who have spent any time whatsoever in customer service of any kind, know that people generally only call such a place to complain about things.

It is a service line you might argue, of course they are only calling to complain about things. Truth is that there were other numbers that fed to our call center that could be used for product questions and all sorts of other things, but they never get as much traffic as the lines to complain.

The reason I bring this up is to talk about one of the most predictable things that we heard on a daily basis. When talking to a customer, they would ask, “Do you get many complaints about X?” With X of course being whatever unit they were currently calling about for service.

How do you answer that question? The honest answer is that all you ever hear about X is complaints, but that isn’t what the person is really trying to find out. It took me a while but I finally developed an answer that was both honest and still gave them what they really wanted to know. I used to tell people that most of the people we talk to are calling with a problem, but they only represent a small amount of the total units that are out there, and the people who have no problems with their X usually don’t call just to let us know that everything is going great. It is human nature. We are quick to complain and slow to praise for the most part.

Actually, I am pretty sure it runs this way all over the blogosphere and not just at the places I go. When a post is written that is generally agreeable or has a good word of encouragement it often gets a handful of comments and drifts lazily off into the sunset having done its work without any trouble. When another post is written that may have a good word about something but causes a breakdown in communication or understanding the “complaint meter” rises dramatically. Lots of people will chime in to the fray and the post may hang around for days noisily getting worked on and over. There is nothing wrong with that at all. It’s part of the point of what we do here. This is a place to discuss issues and boy can we discuss issues. As long as we keep the discussion on fixing the problem and not insulting the appliance or the engineer who made it, we are going to get somewhere with it eventually.

I said all of this because as an author of posts it might be easy to get discouraged when it seems that your thoughts have gone unnoticed (or maybe I am the only one that does that). Don’t be discouraged.

I also said this as a reminder to all of us. It is a lot easier to get vocal and chime in when we disagree or have a complaint, but it is still just as important to throw out a word of affirmation when we have nothing to complain about as well. I still remember how much fun we had at the call center when someone would call us just to say that they had owned a GE appliance for 50 years and it had never given them a bit of trouble. It didn’t happen often, but it usually made my day.

You might feel silly just saying good post. Maybe you think that sounds hollow or insincere. If a post is edifying but not controversial, pick something that sticks out and thank the writer for writing it. It means more than you know because so few take the time to do such things, and shouldn’t we be different like that?

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