She cracks me up with some of her responses to those baffling phone calls we all tend to receive at the repair shop. Sometimes I wonder if she shouldn’t be a comedian, or even have her own vaudeville act.
On one occasion I happened to be working in the office, and overheard a conversation she was having with a prospective customer. The way she handled it was “pure Katie.”
With the phone on speaker, I couldn’t help hearing the entire conversation. By the end of the phone call I was laughing so hard that I nearly forgot I was only supposed to be listening and to keep quiet. I did manage to keep quiet, but had a big smile on my face for the rest of the day. The phone call went something like this:
“Good morning, this is Katie, may I help you?”
“Yes, I had my car over at the transmission shop, and they recommended you guys,” the caller said.
“OK, is it a shifting problem?” she asked.
“No, it’s an electrical problem.”
“We certainly do that kind of work. When would you like to bring it in and have it diagnosed?”
“No, I already had it diagnosed at the other shop.”
“They did, did they? Did they tell you what the problem was?”
“No, they didn’t know what was wrong with it. That’s why I’m calling you.”
About now Katie is getting her raised-eyebrow look going, and her pen is scribbling something on the note pad. Something is up. I can tell. I’ve answered phone calls like this myself. Let’s see how Katie handles this … I’ll listen in a little more.
“So, did they give you any clue as to what the problem was?” she asked patiently.
“They said they didn’t know.”
“Well, that doesn’t help either one of us. Let’s start this all over again. It sounds to me like the other shop checked it out, and determined that it was something they couldn’t handle and recommended us. Their best guess was that it was something electrical. Then they gave you our phone number and told you we could take care of it. Am I pretty close to what’s going on, sir?” Katie asked.
“OK, let’s see if we can go round the bases on this. First off, the transmission shop sent you to … who?”
“Great, who is first base. Now, on to second base. That’s where we figure out the what’s wrong with it part.”
He quickly interrupted her… “already did that.”
“Well, what’s wrong with it then?” Katie asked.
“I don’t know, and they couldn’t tell me either,” the caller said, clearly trying to avoid a trip to second.
“Sir, somehow we have got to third base, and haven’t touched second at all,” she reasoned.
“I don’t understand what you’re getting at,” the stymied caller said.
“Let’s try this again,” Katie continued. “We have established that the who part of this is us at first base. You’re at home plate and you’re going to bring the car here. That will give us a good foothold on first base. The second base is the what part, and that’s where we are having a problem. The I don’t know part can be answered once we have it diagnosed.
“I told you. I already had it diagnosed.”
“OK then, what’s wrong with it?”
“I don’t know.” (Right past second at full speed and sliding into third.)
“Naturally,” Katie answers him with that I’m-not-going-through-this-again look on her face. “They didn’t know. That’s why you’re talking to me.”
“I don’t think you understand,” he answered her.
“Oh, I understand perfectly well, sir. I don’t think you understand that we can’t repair it unless we know what is wrong with it,” she answered in a measured tone. “This is why I wanted to start off with who’s on first, which is me. I’m who.”
“But, I just told you. They diagnosed it already.”
“Not you, they did.”
“What did they tell you was wrong with it?”
“I don’t know,” our caller answered yet again, making another beeline for third base.
“Sir, we will need to diagnose it all over again in order to find out what is wrong with it, and hopefully get to that third base.”
“What third base?”
“What is second base, I don’t know is third,” Katie answered him matter of factly.
“So, we need to stay on what?” asks the caller.
“Yes, second base.”
“Who’s on first?”
“I’m on first base. I thought we already agreed on that. We need to move on to second base.”
“When we get to second base, will that fix my car?”
“I don’t know,” said Katie.
“So are we on second or third now?” the caller asked, genuinely baffled.
“Sir, I’m still on first base where we started. Now let’s try to get to second again. We still need to get it diagnosed. That’s second base,” Katie continued.
“I already had it diagnosed,” repeated the caller yet again, with amazing persistance.
“And what did they find out?”
“I don’t know. Third base!” They both answered in unison without missing a beat.
This back and forth call went on for quite some time. I’m about to fall off my stool, I’m laughing so hard.
We all know what’s going on here. It’s not the who, what, or I don’t know. The customer is saying he has already paid someone to check his car out, and they failed to find the problem. So “naturally,” the customer assumes that there is no need to pay for the same thing a second time, since nothing came out of it the first time around. (Try that logic when you go to a second doctor for another opinion.)
I understand the customer’s plight. He wants to know we can fix it before he brings it in. I just wish when he got up to bat at the first shop they would have done a better job of explaining the necessary diagnostic procedures—to make any repairs at all —to the customer. Then again, the fees the customer was charged might have been for other work, and not just for diagnostics, but that part never makes it into the conversation.
The call ended with us none the wiser about the customer’s actual problem. He simply said, “I can’t bring it today, but I can bring it in tomorrow,” and hung up.
What a relief. Because (he’s in the outfield) today is the day to field wacky phone calls, and I’ve caught all the foul balls I can stand for one day. I just hope Tomorrow doesn’t end up throwing me any wild pitches.
Katie was great at umpire. But no matter how you handle things in the office or in the shop, sometimes all you really want to do is make it around the bases without getting tagged or thrown out.
And there’s one more thing I’m sure of: I don’t want to end up with the customer only making a “short stop” in my shop, because we haven’t seen eye to eye on how the game has to be played. That is, how the problem needs to be approached and resolved.
We all know that short stop’s name. It’s the kind of thing you don't want to hear from a customer or from the repair shop. Now, let’s PLAY BALL.