Your Service Is Only as Good as Your Weakest Link

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

The last few days have been challenging at the DeHaan household. Too much rain in too short of a time produced localized flooding. Coupled with some unusual factors with our house and lot, the result was water gushing into our basement. It took four pumps, several hours of bailing, and the help of family and neighbors to stem the flow and remove the water faster than it entered.

Though things could have been much worse, every room in our lower level sustained water damage. As soon as the crisis was under control and I had gratefully thanked all our rescuers, I turned my attention to the cleanup. I called the local office of a national firm that specializes in such things.

We got off to a good start. They answered their phone quickly and readily comprehended my situation. Though the person I talked to could have treated my disaster with a hint of empathy rather than as a routine scheduling matter, she did accomplish my main objective: confirmation that they knew just what to do to clean up the water. I decided to wait until morning when their rates were lower and I could verify that the problem was completely resolved. After all, there was no sense cleaning up twice.

A few hours later I wondered if I should be doing something to prepare for them in the morning. I called back, assuming I’d reach an after-hours answering service or call center. I did not. I think I reached the same person I talked to earlier. She was not pleased. “This is the emergency line”

“We’re already scheduled for a team to come out at nine tomorrow, and I have a question,” I explained.

“I don’t have your records with me; they’re at the office.”

I wondered why she bothered answering the phone if she wasn’t prepared to help. I pressed forward. “Is there anything I should do before they arrive?”

This seemed like a legitimate question; she apparently felt otherwise. Though we failed to communicate, I did learn they would move furniture as needed. And I gathered that it would be wise for us to move smaller items beforehand. By 11:00 p.m. my wife and I had our living room piled high with items from the basement. We fell into bed exhausted.

The team leader showed up at 8:35 the next morning, thoroughly explaining their procedure. The rest of the team arrived just before nine and went to work. When they finished by 2:00 p.m., we learned the extent of the damage (and that insurance wouldn’t cover a thing).

Before he left, the team leader reiterated that normally someone would come out each day to assess the drying process and make sure there weren’t any issues. However, since they were busy because of the rains, it might not happen every day.

Though I routinely monitored the two industrial dehumidifiers and twenty cyclone-strength fans strategically arranged in my basement, no one from their company did. I waited three days and finally called them.

“Your rep told me someone would check on the fans every day, but it’s been three days and no one…”

“We’re really busy,” the woman I spoke with interjected. “Someone will be out. It might not be today, but they will be out.”

“I have some concerns; it’s getting hot and…”

“It’s supposed to get hot; that’s how it’s designed to work.”

I didn’t ask the rest of my questions; it seemed pointless.

“I’ll make a note you have ‘concerns,’” she said with a hint of sarcasm, “but don’t expect anyone until tomorrow.”

My wife was incensed. “Call them back; demand an answer.”

“I don’t want to make them mad. They might charge us more.”

“Call back during lunch,” she suggested. “Maybe you’ll get someone else.”

I shook my head. “I think they’ve forgotten who the customer is.”

Though the team who cleaned our basement was thorough and professional, with an excellent team leader, their phone staff is their weak link, with their sub-par performance forming my overall impression of their service.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at

[From Connection Magazine May/June 2015]