Service At All Cost

When I first worked for a member of parliament I was tasked with responding to all of the correspondence that came into the office. This was back in the day when correspondence involved the postal system and computers had two colour options for screen displays, orange or green.

Some of the messages we received would be from industry leaders expressing everything from concern to dismay about a recent government announcement. Some were outraged letters from constituents complaining about misguided government policy. Many of the letters were, well for lack of a better word, crazy.

They reminded me of nothing so much as, Letters From A Nut, these missives from Ted L. Nancy were rife with odd requests and strange preoccupations. The difference is, that while comedian Barry P. Marder wrote the Ted L. Nancy letters, the letters appearing on my desk were written in full earnest by constituents.

The woman who wanted the grass around the mailbox cut, not the lawn…that was cut, but the grass a few inches from the box, “it was a disgrace on federal property.”

Or the lady who felt she had a democratic right to a free air conditioner. Then there was the gentleman who wrote to his MP to explain how much he liked to eat road kill. He at least was pleased with government policy that made that possible. Of course he was not nearly as disturbing as the two brothers from a rural part of the country who wrote in demanding wives. I’ll admit an air conditioner seemed almost reasonable by comparison.

The thing is, no matter how odd or outrageous the letter, a polite and reasoned response had to follow. The issues could not be ignored, dismissed or blown off. Constituents who had taken the time to write in deserved an answer. Whether it was clarity on constitutional rights or a quick call to Canada Post requesting that someone with scissors head over to the post box in question, letters were not only answered, the issues in them were fully researched and addressed as far as possible.

What that experience in a political office did was give me an effective lesson in customer service. What it looks like, how it operates and the lengths you need to go to. You see it didn’t matter that we did not deliver the air conditioner, what mattered was that we took the request seriously and responded thoughtfully. People remembered that on Election Day. To be sure there were times when people wrote in or called the office with issues I found offensive, but my job was to listen first, see what if anything could be done to address the issue, explain why if it could not be addressed and offer up alternate solutions.

Since my time on the Hill I’ve had plenty of moments where I’ve thought back to those letters. Instants where I would have liked noting more than to kick the person in front of me, instead, I’ve smiled and thought of ways I could help. It isn’t always easy, it doesn’t always work, but the interesting thing about that is, in the end, whatever was making them/me/us crazy didn’t matter. We didn’t remember the issue, just how we felt at that moment. People don’t remember the specifics of the product they remember the service.

Image courtesy of Miles Stuart at


16 responses to “Service At All Cost

  • ballnchainz says:
    February 4, 2015 @ 06:11 pm

    LOL i could only imagine what was in some of those letters and i’m sure today some of them still make you laugh. There is nothing like good customer service and i’m sure the people who received responses were havppy to have gotten them even if they didn’t get what they wanted. great post

  • Good post Debra, and really you can’t say enough about customer service. It’s SO essential, and yet probably the thing that people complain about the most, even past products they are unhappy with. It just makes good business sense to invest in customer service.

  • Ya know, I am probably much more likely to kick the person in front of me when they make no sense. This is probably why I am not allowed in actual public service situations.

  • I was told the same thing when I started being consistent with my blogging. I already knew what to do but having someone state it to me at that time made sure that I always kept it in mind. The comments I receive aren’t always nice. Luckily most are though. With the ones that aren’t nice, I reply to with courtesy and clarity. After all, I want to continue to be ‘the good guy’. That’s what’s going to bring readers to my blog.

    • I have been fortunate in my blogging and I haven’t received any nasty comments, but I’ll admit, since I blog for joy, rather than commercial purposes, I have no interest in dealing with nasty comments. On the other hand, if someone has a reasoned disagreement with my position, then like you, I happily respond. I learn from the good and the bad. 🙂

  • Hi Debra, nice to see you back. Great post. Wow that really was some great lesson in customer service. The guys demanding wives really cracked me up, I can’t even imagine how you respond to that nicely. 🙂 But by learning how to do so you learned great lessons that will serve you in so many other areas and I’m sure bring you lots of chuckles as you think back over some of them. Have a great week!

    • Susan, the brothers not only asked for wives they had a long list of demands, each more bizarre than the last and they wrote in on a regular basis. Initially I thought one of my colleagues was playing a practical joke, but alas, the brothers were real. Most response letters began along the lines of…”It is not Canadian custom or cultural practice to …etc., etc. 🙂

  • As I’m sure you understand, Debra, I agree with you completely about service at all costs. Sounds like the Canadian system has a lot in common with the British where even a prime minister has to make sure the members of his constituency are happy with everything. If not, there will be an article in the Sun or Daily Mirror about the suffering man who is risking his life because of not having an air conditioner. And demand for the prime minister to sort things out.

    • Catarina, you captured the essence of the Canadian system well. Given it takes it’s origins from the Brits, it’s no surprise our MPs could exchange tales of terror from constituents. 🙂

  • Karen Johnstone says:
    January 25, 2015 @ 08:15 am

    Loved this Deb. It made me smile, and it’s so true!

    Sent from my iPhone


  • You are singing to the choir here, Debra! EVERYONE deserves a response, in my opinion. My lessons were taught by the general public in the restaurant industry so I know from “crazy”!!! Folks even bring in dead bugs to decorate a salad in hopes of getting a fee meal 🙂 I am often amazed how far customer service has fallen by the wayside, these days. This is a great reminder of how important it really is!

    • Jacqueline, I am amazed by what I see in terms of bad service at restaurants. My husband will cut a waiter or manager like a surgeon if the service is off so I’ve learned to test a place before I subject him and the staff to an encounter. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.