Appropriate or Inappropriate?

It amazes me how some companies fail to see the correlation between internal customer service and external customer service. Here’s a recent scenario that still has me scratching my head. See what you think.

An attorney from a large city government office decided to test a particular support staff (Sarah) one day. While disguising his voice and not identifying himself, he proceeded to call Sarah and demand to speak with a newly hired employee. As is often the case, the information on the new hire was not yet in the system, causing Sarah to be unable to transfer him. Known for her exceptional customer service, Sarah politely informed the man that she had no record of such an employee and to call back in a day or two to see if the person’s information had come through the system.

The attorney found Sarah’s response unacceptable and quickly became irate and began yelling at her. Sarah apologized over and over again before terminating the call.

Afterwards, the attorney sought out the human resources manager and lodged a complaint about the poor customer service he had just received from Sarah.

The HR manager (who happens to be friends with the attorney) immediately called Sarah into her office and told her of the complaint. She also revealed the identity of the complainant at the same time.

Sarah, clearly upset, tried to defend herself…but to no avail. What’s more, she felt set-up and hurt that a colleague would not only make such a call but then have the nerve to go to human resources to file a complaint.

“Why didn’t he identify himself on the call and why he couldn’t come to me if he has a problem!” cried out Sarah.

The HR manager shook her head saying, “He didn’t have to identify himself. This was about customer service! That could have been anyone who had made that request.”

Perhaps there was more that Sarah could have done on that call, but the whole experience left a bad taste in her mouth and a commitment on her part to never trust the attorney again.


  1. Did the attorney make the organization better that day?
  2. Was the HR manager correct in defending the attorney’s actions by coming down hard on Sarah?
  3. What message does the whole experience send to fellow employees?
  4. Will such an experience improve internal customer service?
  5. Can an internal work environment, comprised of fear and distrust, impact the quality of external customer care?
  6. Who benefits and who pays the price from such action on the part of the attorney (and HR manager)?
  7. Where was Sarah’s manager in all of this and should he/she get involved?

I’ll respond on Monday’s show. In the meantime, send your questions or scenarios to and I’ll be happy to address them.


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