Guest Blogger Cate Beard, Senior Business Analyst NZ
Ten weeks ago, I purchased a spa pool. During my research, I was batting off online chat agents like flies. They promised to “assist me any way they could,” in making the right decision. Which naturally meant their product. One of my key criteria was after-sales support and they all ticked that box smiling. Some even followed up with personal calls. After making my decision I paid the money and received an invoice.
There was a very explicit, bold instruction stamped across the base of it: “The lead-time is 10 weeks. Please do not call us before then, we’ll let you know when it arrives.” I work for an organisation with a provisioning/customer service aspect so while I was a little taken aback by the ‘in-your-face’ nature of the statement, I respected it as I know how challenging and frustrating it can be when a customer calls incessantly to check on delivery prior to the ETA they were given at the start. I made a diary note to follow up after 11 weeks, which seemed fair.
The first issue I had was there was no contact number on their invoice. So, I went back to their website to engage in a chat with their “always there to help” chat agent. A very friendly auto-message said a human would be with me soon and in the meantime could I please indicate what I wanted to chat about. Was it (a) New Sale, or (b) After-Sale Support. I selected (b) and waited. And waited. Several minutes later I saw someone called Jason assigned to the chat. He typed, “Hi there, how can I help?” I replied, “Hi, I’m wanting to follow up on the delivery of my spa. The lead-time was 10 weeks. It’s now been 11 weeks so can you please advise new ETA.” Then I waited. And waited. I abruptly ended the chat myself by saying I would call the head office given the unsuccessful response I’d had via the chat… with you, Jason.
Eventually I got through to a human at the head office after going through the same pathway of new sale v. after-sale. She took my details and said someone would get back to me within 24-72 hours. As she was about to hang up, I asked her if she would like my order number and she replied, “Oh yes, sorry, I do need that.” I wasn’t surprised when I heard nothing back within 72 hours.
The good news is that Jason called me back almost immediately after he’d read my subliminal threat to inform the head office of our unsatisfactory ‘chat.’
The experience got me thinking more broadly about how new sale v. after-sale is a great metaphor for the way humans tend to interact generally.
Not just with each other, but with themselves. For example, a person applying for a job will present themselves appropriately and say/do all the right things to sell themselves. If they’re appealing for a loan, they’ll present themselves as a wholesome low-risk investment, brimming with confidence in their ability to make the payments. Then perhaps several months into their newly formed contracts, the employee is gossiping about their boss or dragging their feet and the loanee misses a payment because they weren’t such a low risk after all.
It happens when we meet new people too, friends or lovers. We generally don’t step into relationships putting our dark side first. We dance in the ‘new sale’ zone, presenting our best selves.
If a deal is struck and the relationship takes root, there’s a gradual transition into the ‘after-sales’ period, where we reveal more of our whole selves. I believe the longevity, depth and richness of any relationship hinges on the level of care and attention each person contributes after the sale.
What I’m most interested in exploring around the metaphor is the way we interact with and treat ourselves.
How good are we at caring for ourselves in the after-sale zone of life’s peaks, celebrations, relationships, and dramas?
Consider what couples (traditionally) promise each other when they marry: I take you to be my partner. To have and to hold from this day forward. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. Wow. That’s some hefty after-sales support commitment to make to another person.
My preference would be to hear those vows spoken to oneself in the mirror.
Imagine for a moment what that would feel like… to promise to love and cherish and hold yourself always, until death. That’s self-love right there. Why are we so quick to promise that level of support to another person, yet not to ourselves? Who is the most important person in your life? Who is the person you quite literally could not go on living without? There is only one person in the world you can wholly expect to make that depth of vow to you and keep it, and it’s you.
And there is only one person in the world you can hold accountable for keeping those promises, and it’s you. That’s why it’s called self-love. No one else can do it.
Circling back to my spa purchase experience, I’m very disappointed in the level of care I’ve received post-sale.
If you ever feel disappointed or unhappy with yourself, consider whether you’re giving yourself enough after-care.
When you intuitively know you need help or support, do you swiftly end that self-chat and look around for a new sale opportunity to distract you? Or do you take the time to really pay attention to yourself, and respond in a kind and caring way?