Thursday, October 11, 2012

Showing Up in Person

Awhile back, I needed to get a minor adjustment made on a bank account. I tried online and received confirmation, but the change didn't stick. I tried again and received instruction to call their 800 number. The gal on the other end was friendly and listened well to my purpose for calling, then explained (in summary) that I would need to receive permission before making the change. And really, I was okay with that; in matters like this, it is entirely appropriate to take extra care. But unfortunately, the only person who could give that permission is me, and I wasn't authorized to give myself account access. (Yes, that explanation was indeed as hopelessly circular as it sounds.)

I asked clarifying questions. In my experience, so long as we all stay respectful and solutions-oriented, pretty much all these problems can indeed be solved. In the end, though, she was stymied, and I couldn't solve this on my own. She even agreed with my assessment that it was an entirely circular argument and she saw no way to fix the problem. Finally, she said they could probably work something out if I brought two particular people with me in person (each lives over 20 miles away) to affirm the change.

In her defense, she seemed like she genuinely wanted to help and was genuinely dismayed that she couldn't. She really was doing the best she could within the system she had to work within. Getting all grumpy with her would be disrespectful and wasn't going to lead to a solution anyway.

So I waited until after the conversation was over before sighing heavily. Seriously, why do things have to be so complicated?

And that's a good question. After all, back in the day didn't people just walk into banks and do business in reasonable ways like reasonable people?

So -- I tried it. I dropped in at the nearby bank branch and explained to the teller what I needed. She couldn't make the change for me, but walked me over to a banker who had it fixed within about two minutes. Maybe three minutes if you count the friendly greeting chat.

I live in a tech-oriented time, and much can be done easily and well using tech methods. But there is something significant, too, about simply interacting as human beings together.


Kathleen Allison said...

In person is ALWAYS better. Texts and emails drive me nuts. So much is missed...and what is missed can be crucially important...body language, facial expressions, tone of voice...all these things change the message that's trying to be expressed. Mark and I argue about this ALL THE TIME. He loves his texting and email...I think it's an ineffective way to communicate, especially in anything emotional or of a conflicting nature. Just my opinion though.

Debi said...

Some things I really appreciate by text or email, like when my husband sends me a quick note to let me know he's on his way home, or when a colleague texts request for a phone call when I have a few minutes that day rather than interrupting whatever I happen to be doing at the moment -- these communicate respect, with little room for error in interpretation. But text-based communication too often creates distance, which makes its usefulness quite limited beyond exchange of information. I'd even hesitate to use text for communicating little things when in conflict with that person. There is simply too much room for misinterpretation of tone.