How I realised Customer Support is more than a job…in a London hotel laundry room
Updated: Apr 6
I didn’t want to turn every experience into a blog post but this one seemed to have the potential to convey a powerful message, so here goes.
It had been two weeks in a new city and I had delayed washing my clothes for the fear of one thing: I did not know to operate a washing machine. Even though my hotel had FREE Launderette, I convinced myself not to go there until the ultimatum: I had no clean clothes for the next day.
My only knowledge of a washing machine(thanks to this F.R.I.E.N.D.S episode) is that you’re supposed to separate your whites from colours and that’s pretty much it. I wanted to Google for more but there was no time. I took all my clothes in a bag and went there and prayed to God for the room to be empty. If I’m gonna make a fool of myself, I’d prefer to do it alone.
My prayers were answered. The room was indeed empty.
I was not afraid of the machines, I am used to fiddling around with buttons and figuring it out (I work with a Software product, I do it all the time!) and I thought this would be no different. The first step seemed to be trickier than I thought, there were two openings and I didn’t know if they meant the same!
I took a lazy guess and started loading my clothes on to the top one (so that I didn’t have to bend down) and pressed the “Start” button, completely ignoring the other buttons and the instruction manual. There was no denying it, it worked. The clothes started rotating inside the machine. I felt elated.
It had been 20 minutes since the machine was making the “machine” noise and I felt the need to intervene. It felt like opening up a torrent file while it’s downloading just to ensure if it’s the actual movie you wanted. I pressed the unlock button (beginning to feel like a pro already) and opened the door only to find my clothes hotter than they were when they went in.
I had actually put the clothes into the “dryer”, a separate entity altogether apparently, which was meant to dry clothes after they had been washed. I had been so engrossed with the fact that the machine seemed to be rotating, I had failed to notice that it was rotating without any water in it. An absolute necessity for the clothes to be washed, water.
If there had been anyone else in the room, I would’ve taken the clothes back to the room pretending to have completed my laundry. It was empty, I had one more chance to get it right.
I finally managed to get in the right hole (hem) and pressed a few random buttons. The LED screen had “1:28” on the screen and I assumed that’s the ETA for the wash to be finished. The time was then “1:15” and I happily pressed the blinking “Start” button. It was finally doing what it was supposed to: washing clothes with water.
It took me a while to realise that the “1:28” had become “1:22”. It was not the ETA but a countdown timer. I looked at all the buttons and couldn’t figure out which one was to speed up time. I had just given up my Saturday afternoon at a new city to Laundry. Things couldn’t be better!
I patiently waited for the wash to finish and took the clothes out to put them in the dryer(again). I was still waiting.
You must be wondering what’s the title got to do with the post so far. I’m getting there.
It was at this point when another hotel guest walked into the room. I walked away from the washing machine to give room for him to use the machine.
With a bundle of dirty clothes in one hand, he was trying to figure out which button to press and he looked at me and asked me “Excuse me, I want set the timer for only half an hour. Can you help?”
My instinct as a Customer Support rep took over and I instantly said “Sure, I’ll help you out!” without having no clue of what I’m gonna do next. I walked closer to the machine and explored the buttons and dials on them.
The round dial on the could to rotate and also be pressed. A button! It is a button!
I pressed that and it took me to a new screen where I could choose which mode I wanted to run the machine on. The rotating dial helped me navigate between them and I turned them around until I stumbled upon “Quick wash”
I chose that and pressed the button again and the numbers “0:28” came on the screen! There was no mistake, it is DEFINITELY a countdown timer!
“There you go, it’s set for 28 minutes” I announced, quite pleased with myself.
He was literally beaming and thanked me multiple times!
I then made the connection between what I just did and what I do for a living: customer support.
Customer needn’t be someone who gives us money. It can be anyone who’s trying to do something.
When you turn the customer’s problem into your problem, you feel the same pain and it pushes you into solving it much more efficiently.
I was able to understand the pain because I was looking at it. Most of us deliver support remotely, it is hard but important to understand what the customer is going through and act accordingly.
Knowing is not a criterion to deliver great customer support. It’s just about making a genuine effort to solve a problem that’s not your own; even when you have no clue how to do so.