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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

The Other Side of the Jerk Phone Call

Posted on July 17, 2012 at 5:50 PM

My Padawan-learner, Heather Sidorowicz, put up her first blog this week at Resi Systems on the topic of Earning ‘Extra Mile’ Respect in Custom Installation. (I suggest that you read it and acquaint yourself with Heather; something tells me that we'll be reading more from her in the future.) (In fact, please to read the excellent Guest Blog that she wrote for me here; kinda/sorta the post that got her noticed for her writing potential. Now, I’m not saying that writing a Guest Blog for Sciacca IS going to get you noticed by other venues, but I AM saying that if you write something good here, it will be READ by other venues. So...)

Anyhow, Heather’s post reminded me of something that I had back-burnered on my own blog and inspired me to finish the post. 

So, several weeks ago, we come back from a trip. It is pouring rain and I walk into our bedroom. And I see a big, wet, mushy splotch in the ceiling and a stain running slowly and accusingly down the wall where there is a leak.

And I go ballistic.

To fully appreciate my mindset, we really must step back in time to the beginning of the year. This is when I hired a company to re-roof our home. He seemed very professional; talked about using 50-year architectural shingles, with some kind of giant windspeed rating (important stuff in these here parts where tornadoes can come walking through your neighborhood tossing stuff about at 130+ MPH winds). His price is great, my neighbor has used him and was really happy, he always shows up when he says he will, calls back promptly, says that his time in the military really taught him about customer service and follow-through, etcetera, blah-blah-bletera.

As we’re walking through the job I take him into our bedroom and show him the signs of water damage from a particularly pesky leak in a valley over our master bedroom. “I don’t care what you have to do up in that valley, but I just REALLY want to make sure that that leak is taken care of. It has been plaguing me for years, and I want to make sure that it isn’t an issue.”

“Sure, sure, of course, my guys are the best. We specialize in valley-roof-leak-stop-prevention techniques.”

“Whatever you have to do.”

“Of course, we have this matting and underlay and (some more words about roofing stuff that I kind of droned out on)…”

So, I hire him to do the job and 3 days and $9500 later, it’s done. There are some minor little issues about the installation of the flashing and clean-up, but he immediately comes out and addresses them and it’s good.

Except the first big rain comes a few weeks later and as I’m lying in bed I hear, “Tap…tap…tap-tap…” the tell-tale sound of water dripping onto the other side of sheetrock.

I know this sound.

I do NOT like this sound.

So I bolt out of bed at like 3 in the morning, throw on the lights – because I figure that Dana will really want to be a part of this excitement – and I jump on top of my desk to reach up and touch the ceiling. Soaked.

I start marching over to the phone, my face locked into a grimace.

“What are you doing?!” Dana asks. There’s a mixture of several different emotions fighting for pole-position in her voice; sleep, anger, confusion, flabbergastedness.

“I’m gonna call that guy! The roof is leaking!”

“Now? You’re gonna call him now?! Don’t be ridiculous. It’s 3 in the morning. Call him tomorrow.”

So I stalk back to bed and angrily drift off to the sounds of, “Tap…tap…tap-tap…” Next morning I call the guy and he comes out.

“Look,” I say, “this is like one of the MAJOR reasons why I re-roofed our house.  Like I told you before, I really don’t care what you need to do, but I don’t want to have to worry about this leak anymore.”

He explains how the complex angles in our roof and valley are tricky but blah-blah he’ll get it fixed whatever it takes.

So he does.

And that brings us back to the beginning of the story.

So, I come home and see that my ceiling is once again damp and mushy and I’m furious. I charge over to the phone and dial the guy’s cell phone. Ring. Ring. Ring. Voicemail.

At which point I break into a tirade. My blood pressure is up, I’m gesticulating wildly, I am pacing around the room jabbing my finger in the air, I’m talking about restitution and….

Dana shouts, “JOHN!” which breaks me out of my anger-fugue and brings me back to reality.

I finish with a feeble, “So, umm, call me as soon as you can so we can discuss this. Really want to get it fixed. Thanks,” and hang up.

At which point she says, “Is that the way you want people to call you?”

(sheepish) “No…”

“Would you want to come in to work and have that be the first message you receive?”


“Do you really think that is going make him want to call you back?”


“Do you?”


And it’s right. I was being a jerk.  (And I know a thing or two about being a jerk, and I can say I was in rare form and headed towards a performance of truly epic jerk-dom had she not stepped in.) Sure, it was infuriating that my roof was STILL leaking. But the guy had so far always promptly returned my calls and returned to do follow-up work. All I was going to do by being hostile was to damage our relationship.

And when I thought about how I feel – how I react – when people come at me all wrong on the phone, it made me realize how much more gets accomplished by being nice. Well, at least by starting out being nice. Or at least civil. Give the person on the other end of the call the opportunity to resolve your issue before you lay into them.

Being a jerk might get you on the schedule. It might even get the problem resolved in a slightly faster manner.

The first time.

Because if you alienate the people that you want – or in many cases *need* -- to help you by being overly hostile and jerk-like on the phone, then I it will only be detrimental to you in the long run. And I can assure you that if that guy on the other end hangs up the phone with an exasperated, “What a jerk!” that sentiment is going to travel through the entire company and you are not going to get the best service possible.

You won’t be the one that gets called when a cancellation opens up on the schedule. And you won’t receive the extra attention when people are at your home.

The next time you are about to lay into someone on the phone, pause. Take a deep breath. And ask yourself, "If the person on the other end were having this same problem and calling me, how would I want them to act?" Taking a similar path will likely serve you better.

Categories: July 2012, CTA, Rants