Why Empowered Customer Service Reps Matter

Just had an experience that could have gone awry if not for an empowered customer service rep who took action and turned a negative into something positive by listening to me and having the authority to do the right thing.

For a couple of years I’ve been enjoying Parallels, the virtual machine to run Windows on Mac. Though I didn’t immediately upgrade to 4.0 — since booting into Windows via Boot Camp was meeting my needs at the time — recent client requirements compelled me to leverage my Mac tools and Windows simultaneously making rebooting not a viable option.

Parallels continued emailing finally met my need and it was pretty painless to upgrade rather than move to their competitor VMWare Fusion (and climb a new learning curve to boot) even though I’ve got some buddies who swear by it and tried to convince me to buy it instead.

Over lunch today I went to the Parallels site, purchased and downloaded the upgrade. Installing it I was asked for my previous version key which I cut-n-pasted from an email. OH NO! It turned out that my previous key was the 3.0 upgrade from 2.0 key…and I needed the original 2.0 key!

After spending a half hour digging through my office closet in search of my original box with the key on the CD jacket, I confirmed my nagging suspicion that I’d tossed it out since I’d written the new key down in my archive as well as emailing it to myself (my way of ensuring it’s at my fingertips and safe).

Getting on the phone with customer service licensing, the young woman Amy let me know that I’d need to contact their distribution partner, Nova Development, in order to obtain my original key! Having been through this key dependency problem with Adobe — until they figured out that a successful upgrade requiring a previous key was sufficient anti-piracy measure — I knew I faced nearly an hour of “key chasing” in order to use the product I’d purchased, downloaded and was in the midst of installing.

I asked Amy, “Before we get off the phone, may I rant just a bit?” in my nicest voice, concealing my agitation. Pointing out how Adobe had made a policy change to cease pissing off their customers through this key dependency problem, our conversation eventually got around to her emailing me an original 2.0 key so I could upgrade! Problem solved, customer delighted, and so much so he does a blog post about this atypical-but-very-important service empowerment.

Smart move by Parallels management to not so tightly restrict a licensing rep so s/he can’t make a judgement call.


  1. PXLated on January 23, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Cool – Nice to see good customer service.
    If you ever want to see a product key nightmare to the Nth degree, buy some Garmin maps. Garmin people were friendly but the policies they work under are unbelievably restrictive and make you jump through many hoops.

  2. Jason Kiesau on January 27, 2009 at 8:42 am


    Good to hear you got what you were looking for? Perhaps I am too skeptical, but when I phone a call center or visit a restaurant I am surprised when I receive exceptional service. I expect average, but am not surprised when it is below. Right or wrong when it is below I feel no guilt in calmly and professionally expressing my dissatisfaction.

    In your situation, do you believe you should have had to express your irritation to get the results you did?

    I have had many conversations with people who have awareness in business and customer service who go into these situations prepared to raise a fuss because they know if they don’t, nothing will get done.

    I’d love to be a fly in the wall for a strategy session when customer service guidelines are developed. I’m sure it’s an interesting discussion on how to give their reps empowerment with out allowing them to give the farm away.

    Here is a good list I came upon as I was have been looking at different employee empowerment resources.

    An employee empowerment system can be expressed with the following steps:

    1.Provide an inspiring vision and launch a crusade.

    2.Help people connect their personal goals to business goals.

    3.Create an environment where continuous innovation is part of the culture.

    4.Encourage entrepreneurial creativity and experimentation.

    5.Involve everyone, empower and trust employees.

    6.Coach and train your people to greatness.

    7. Encourage teams and build teamwork, use the leverage of diversity of experience.

    8. Motivate, inspire, energize people, and recognize achievements.

    9. Encourage risk taking.

    10. Make business fun.

    I got this list from: http://thetenminutemanager.wordpress.com/2008/11/08/empowerment-of-employees-can-create-high-performance/

  3. Steve Borsch on January 27, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for the great insights Jason.

    “In your situation, do you believe you should have had to express your irritation to get the results you did?”

    Of course not. But in the same way I’ve been able to “socially engineer” my way to phenomenal hotel, rental car, vacation packages, deals at retail, and so forth is that I find ways to connect with people and fully explain why I’m seeking what I’m trying to obtain from them.

    More often than not, people come through. If they don’t, I call back and try it with someone else (depending, of course, on how much is at stake or how badly I want something). That usually works *if* they’re empowered to take action.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.