Email exchange fail

Yesterday I had an email exchange with someone at a state government agency. I won’t name the agency, nor do I intend this to be any type of political stance. (We have enough of that online and elsewhere already.)

What I do want to show though is how a simple question was handled and what we can learn from it.

I needed to confirm some information with them, so I sent the following (also, I’ve shortened some of this for clarity):

Me: Recently I was sent an email which states I need to do X. I have already done Y, which, I believe, indicates that I do not need to do X. Here is some of my information. Can you confirm?

Agent: Our records show that you do not have Y, so you will still need to do X.

Me: Here is all of my information, including what I was told by so-and-so. Can you please check this.

Agent: What is your identification number?

Me: I sent it in the previous email. Also, here are two other pieces of info that you probably can look up on your own, but I will make it easier for you to do you job. (That last part I just added.)

Agent: That information is too new for me to see.* If it is true, then you are correct.

*This information was submitted about three months ago.

Me: Ok, but do I need to follow up again before the end of the year? If your system doesn’t have it I don’t want to get penalized for some reason.

Agent: We are usually good with handling these types of things, but there are no guarantees. Please be aware that X needs to be in by the end of the year.

Me: Ok, I guess I’ll have to follow up again then before the end of the year.

* * *

This is an example of someone who has either been poorly trained, doesn’t have access to proper resources for current systems, or doesn’t care to ensure that the systems and processes in place function well for those that the agency needs to serve.

Above all though, it’s a lack of understanding of the issue and care for the person on the other end of the email exchange. If you, or anyone you manage, has access to email where communication with customers takes place, please don’t let this happen.

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