Waste pick up mix up

imagesThe landscape supply dump truck had piled my shredded redwood at the curb next to my driveway the day before my trash pick up. That same day, twenty-five feet away at the far end of my property, we piled the leaves and yard clippings for pick up by the yard-waste truck.

The driver got overzealous and scooped up the redwood as well as the yard waste. The previous week I had a shredded redwood pile in the same spot which he left, so who knows what prompted him to scoop it this time.

I was not a happy camper. I called the waste pickup company to see if anything could be done, knowing the answer could be “in our policy it says anything piled at the curb will be picked up,” If so, I would have understood, but I was at least going to call.

I explained the situation to the receptionist. “Well, it was in the street where yard waste goes,” she said unsympathetically. “I had another pile of shredded redwood there last week that he didn’t touch. And it was 25 feet from the obvious yard waste of leaves and trimmings.” She said to hold on, then that a supervisor would be over in a few minutes.

When I saw his pickup truck pull to my curb, I went to the sidewalk to talk to him. He got out of his truck without saying anything nor making eye contact. He was fiddling with his cell phone ear piece so I thought he was on the phone. Yet he didn’t say a word. He walked to the redwood pile remains, retracing the streaks of debris until he came to the yard waste remains. He talked into to his walkie-talkie to the pickup driver, asking him about the situation. Still no acknowledgement of me, verbally or visually.

When he was off his call, I explained the situation. He said he could see that the redwood was clearly in a different pile and his driver shouldn’t have picked it up. He said the driver needed to pay more attention to what he’s doing, since he’d been doing this job for years he should know better. He said he’d been doing some other things that showed he wasn’t paying attention and he was now going to be suspended for a few days.

I told him the redwood had cost me $35 plus a $50 delivery fee. He called his boss and explained the situation. The boss agreed to reimburse me, but said he wasn’t happy about it. We agreed I’d fax him the invoice from the landscape supply company after I had it replaced and he’d send me a check.

This is a mixed tale of some inappropriate customer-contact behavior but with an ending that took care of the customer.

  1. The pickup driver was not paying attention, since it is common in my neighborhood to have landscape materials dumped at your curb. I learned that the drivers are instructed to not pick up something if there is doubt, but instead to leave a pre-prepared note at the house explaining the customer should call if they want the pile picked up.
  2. The receptionist should have first tried to quell my frustration by empathizing, not negating my perspective.
  3. The supervisor should have acknowledged me when he got out of the truck. If he was on the phone, he could have easily made eye contact, nodded and showed non-verbally that he was on the phone. When he was off the phone, he could have greeted me and found out the story.

On the positive side, the supervisor came within minutes of my call. He understood what happened and didn’t doubt my story. He arranged for reimbursement and was pleasant about the situation.

Whenever there is a challenging situation, it’s important to be especially aware of how you are interacting with the customer. From what you say to their explanation of the situation, to making sure you greet them verbally or non-verbally. Each piece of the interaction will enhance the customer’s impression of your professionalism or detract from it.

  • In your organization, how are you showing empathy (or not) when a customer explains a problem, even if you think the customer is wrong?
  • How do you acknowledge the presence of an in-person customer when you are on the phone?


Remarkable Customer Service...And Disservice
Remarkable Customer Service...And Disservice

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