How Cake Kept a Man From Getting Frosted: A Lesson in Not Giving in to Anger

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When was the last time you threw your hands up in the air over a customer service issue? You may laugh, but we’ve all experienced this. When you’re dealing with a customer service department of a company who’s dropped the ball, it’s natural to feel frustrated and angry. However, getting angry rarely does any good and often leads to more negative outcomes: you lose time with unresolved issues, and the company loses their reputation.

Giving in to anger is a less skillful way of responding to difficult or challenging circumstances. Tweet this

The story I want to share with you now is one that my friend Chris originally told me about in New York. It begins with a customer service nightmare, which evolved into what can only be described as an odyssey, and one that truly would test anyone’s ability to remain calm. He and his colleagues had decided to install high-speed fiber Internet in their New York office, and by all measures, their vendor had failed epically. It was nearly one year since they’d placed the install order, and there was still nothing to note on progress. However, instead of getting angry, Chris decided to approach this particular problem in a different way. What did he do? He sent them a cake.

An Internet Odyssey Even Ulysses Could Appreciate

Having lived with relatively slow Internet access in New York, their service wasn’t meeting their needs, so they started to look at the other Internet options. The pickings were slim, but one option they looked at was bringing high-speed fiber into the building. Through a friend, he got connected to Time Warner. He tracked them down to order service for their offices, and this is how his odyssey began.

Three months after ordering service, it was discovered that Time Warner had confused their business address with somebody else’s, and they were analyzing installation in a completely different area of the city. At that point, the firm was informed that they needed to “start from scratch” to figure out if they could even get fiber to their building location. Exacerbating the problem, they also requested a more flexible service contract which would better fit the existing terms of their building lease, a request that I imagine was eyeballed with much scrutiny.

Over the months, they had numerous meetings to discuss this dilemma and received intermittent updates that inspired far less confidence than if they’d been awaiting delivery of a message by carrier pigeon. Chris could have easily let his mood sour, but in the end this wouldn’t have solved anything.

A Sweet Idea

The weeks went by. Instead of getting mad, he began to play along with it. He didn’t lose composure. He gave the people in charge the chance to do the right thing and see this odyssey through. Besides, there really were no other options.

Time continued to pass with no real resolution. As the one-year anniversary of placing the order approached, Chris wanted to somehow commemorate the date, so he ordered them two cakes. He had one cake delivered to their technical contact and the other delivered to the sales contact, right on the same day that they’d placed their order one year earlier. Unbelievably, the very next day they had confirmation from the company on an installation date. As a bonus, they threw in a modification to their contract via a simple email agreement to better fit their lease.

When faced with a challenge, keeping the right attitude produces better results! Tweet this

The powerful lesson from Chris’ story is that keeping the right attitude throughout the ordeal helped them get it done in a more positive and interesting way. Anybody can get angry, but giving in to anger is less skillful when responding to difficult or challenging situations, often snowballing into more disaster. Given the likelihood that these situations are going to occur, I’ve thought about a new way of looking at problems, what I call “going counterintuitive.” You can read more about these thoughts in my companion blog post, The Power of Embracing the Counterintuitive and Yielding Better Results.

The next time you encounter a frustrating situation, pause and take time to reflect on it. Sometimes doing the exact opposite of what’s expected will produce the best results. Trust your gut feeling on this, and you may find a winning scenario that provides both sides with positive outcomes and forges a better relationship in the process.

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