Friday, March 21, 2014

Customer Confidence (and lack thereof).

Every customer I meet is different.  And yet, there are certain similarities that tend to pop up and most people fall into one of two groups: those who have confidence in me and my work, and those who for whatever reason feel that I am inferior.  Now, it is debatable as to whether or not "being inferior" is relative to "being female", but in some cases the customer makes that correlation blatantly obvious.

For instance, I went to a house once and a woman answered the door.  I could see the look of confusion on her face when I introduced myself and explained what I was there for, but I shrugged it off.  It's not uncommon for people to be surprised to see a female technician.  Customers will comment on it all the time; usually it's something like, "Oh, it's so nice to see a woman technician!" but not in this case.  Immediately after introducing myself, the lady asked if I was working by myself, to which I said yes.  She then stated, "Oh, well are you sure you can do this by yourself?".  I had never really had anyone ask me questions like this mere seconds after arriving at their house, and BEFORE I even started any inquiries as to what work would need to be done!

After assuring the woman that yes, in fact I was able to do this work by myself and I would not be having anyone else come out to help me, I entered her house and started evaluating the job.  I started working and within a couple minutes the lady came up to me and asked, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?".  This was the point where I started to get frustrated.  The lady had such a lack of confidence in me and my work that I honestly didn't even feel like helping her at that point.  I had a fleeting thought of just dropping all my tools midway through and saying to her, "You know what, you're right!  I can't do this!  I'll have to send someone else to come at a later date.", not because I couldn't do the job, but because I was fed up with her attitude and figured if she didn't think my work would be adequate why not just leave and let someone else deal with her?

But I had to keep my professional demeanor and I simply responded, once again, that yes I was able to do the job and that I didn't need assistance.  After the job was done she seemed surprised once again, but I didn't get any sort of apology or sign of appreciation for the work I had done.  Now one could argue that the woman was simply doubtful of my work and that my gender didn't have anything to do with it.  But from my point of view, I could tell in the way she said it what her underlying meaning was. 

The other negatively charged question I get asked a lot is, "I thought they were sending a senior technician.", as though for some reason, their first impression of me is that I'm not senior tech (which I am).  I have yet to figure out why people assume this, but I do think that in some of the cases it is probably gender based.  As frustrating as these comments are, I still have to work through it.  Some days I have a hard time working after people have this attitude towards me.  And other days, I use those comments as fuel to push me harder to PROVE my work.  I strive to always have it be the latter of the two, but we all just have those days.

It's not all negative though, sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by the confidence that customers have in me even before I've started to work!  It's always nice to go to a house and have the person at the door tell me how glad they are that I'm there to help.  If everyone treated technicians that way, regardless of their gender, the blue collar world would be a much happier place.

Sometimes, actually quite a lot, I get gender bias positive comments from customers, usually something like, "It takes a woman to do a man's job!" or "It just needed a woman's touch!" or "If you want it done right, have a woman do it!"  It's always nice to get compliments, but I still get that tinge in the back of my brain when people say things like this, because what's wrong with it just being a good job because I'm a good technician?  What does being a woman have to do with it, regardless of whether it's a great job or a horrible job?

Usually by the time I'm done with the job I've gained the customers confidence and approval.  Sometimes I've had to win them over with seeing how I work, and sometimes it's just about relaying the knowledge to the customer.  But it's still not the same as working for people who never questioned my ability from the second they answered the door.  Regardless of gender or assumptions a customer has before I even step foot in their house, I'm simply there for one reason and that is to do my job.  Otherwise I wouldn't have my job in the first place!   

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