Letters From Leton: Does Anybody Know What Time It Is? Does Anybody Really Care?

Last weekend was a “honey do” weekend, with my wife reminding me of little projects that could be undertaken on a cold, football-less weekend in January.

Around 3:00 PM on Saturday, my wife notified me that a pole had fallen near our neighbor’s home. The power and WIFI was working, so while curious about the pole, I was in no rush to see what had happened.

A few minutes later as I peeked out the front window, I was majorly surprised. Much like the lad in the movie “A Christmas Story”, I muttered, “jeepers the cops”.

A utility pole had snapped like a match about 4 feet from the ground and lay held by wires roughly the same height off the ground and parallel to it. To the right, the police had the road blocked. To the left, the same along with numerous fire and rescue vehicles as well.

After about 30 minutes, the power was turned off not to be restored at our home until 9:30 that evening.

Around that same time, I received a text message (I like text alerts) that our cable service would return at 9:46 PM. 10 PM arrived, and we decided to turn in from a long and strenuous day of working a 500 piece puzzle featuring a New Yorker cover picture from 1955.

The following morning, I received a text alert that cable service would be available at 9:18 AM. 

Around 9 AM, with no sight of a repairman, I ventured outside to take a closer look at the area around the restored utility pole. What a mess – especially around the box above which held the cable line. It looked like shredded cabbage!

I phoned the cable service to discuss the severity of the damage and shared the fact that the power company had 5 crews and trucks out the previous night for repairs. I stressed that a comparable effort would be needed by the cable company.

I then asked why I was receiving text alerts for restoration of service with times that were not reliable. The lady on the other end did her best, but I knew she was not empowered to respond to my questions with knowledge. I shared that I though it would be better to not share an estimated time of completion versus sharing times that would only mislead the customer and create frustration.

As I often do, I turned to think about our Bank and our business. Over the years, we have worked to empower and train our folks on how to deal with customers’ questions and take steps to get things fixed for the customer. After all, if the customer has to call Jonesville (Our OPs Center location) instead of their local office, why not just call Charlotte, New York or San Francisco?

I also thought about the accuracy of what we do. What if we texted the wrong balance at 9:56 PM? Then another balance at 9:18 AM. And another at 1:08 PM. And finally the real balance at 4:56 PM. (By the way, those last times reflect the text times from the cable company during the day when service would be restored with only the last one being accurate.)

Technology without empowered and trained folks – and folks who are allowed to be honest with the customer – is beyond frustrating. It is worse than no technology at all.

Technology is here to stay, and it offers so much. But people need to be allowed to use the greatest technology of all – the human brain!

– Leton

“Letters From Leton” is a blog series comprised of the weekly updates that Leton Harding – President, Chairman, and CEO of Powell Valley National Bank, shares with the Bank’s team members. These newsletters are full of uplifting anecdotes and intriguing insights that are applicable beyond the Bank, so we want to share them with you.