Customer NO-Service

Repost and update of an entry back in December of 2012


I'm going to start December off with a real pet peeve of mine. Its the lack of customer service that is provided by our business friends. I often refer to our current acceptance of service provided by BIG business as "Customer NO-Service."

Here we go... Do you remember when customer service was a major component to any business’ success? What ever happened to it?

Just like my parents and my grandparents and my great-grandparents, I relish in the day of “remembering when.” Times were simpler when I was younger and though we had our difficulties, just like we do today, we also could rely on others to help. But, we’ve gotten busier, haven’t we? There’s no time to be accurate with facts! There’s no time to be cordial and helpful! There’s no time to waste on insignificant things as being of service to someone who has a simple question that needs answering.

No! No! No!

We only have time for increased efficiencies and 10 hour a day busywork and sheltering funds and watching out for our own backsides for fear of some litigious recourse.

expeditiousIf you want a person to help with a problem or issue you’ll now have to pay for it in some way. Maybe not monetarily but in order to speak to a person that might be able to work through a problem, there's usually a cost involved. Maybe its time, but most likely it's either an increase to the price of the goods or the requirement to purchase a warranty program! The people whom you seek help from have to check their schedule, ask someone else's permission or simply just don't give a damn! Not only that, there are inconvenient processes and rules that need to be followed and of course... you’ll have to wait your turn for any of this to happen!

Yet, there’s an oxymoron here somewhere. You see? I’ve heard for the last 25 years that “we now live in an ‘immediate need’ world” that provides immediate satisfaction. "Time is money," or so they say, and monetary wealth is and always will be one of the two major measurements that we assess a person's success against. I know that I often buy stuff that I really don't need but want and impulsively purchase it before thinking it through. We all need the latest and greatest cell phones! Just look at the Apple iPhone craze if you don't believe me! We need the best and fastest computers! We need the newest cars with the best gadgets! We need the biggest flat screen televisions with the latest in technology! Plus, we need to get them now! Wasting time is wasting money! And, though we need the most expensive houses, do we really have to have 5, 6 and even 10,000 square feet of space with marble countertops and a luxurious bathroom to survive?

And boy, if we don’t get what we want as soon as possible, someone’s going to pay for it and that someone is never going to be me! No longer do we wait to let the kinks get worked out. No longer do we earn the stuff we want. No longer do we window shop and drool and then save our pennies to buy it. It's expeditious gratification that we are looking for.

Again, I contest, it’s because we live in this ‘immediate need’ world. Today is the most important day of your life, right? Tomorrow is too far away.

But here's where the oxymoron part becomes relevant: If immediate need and gratification are priorities than why do we think nothing of standing in lines, waiting for technicians and repair people or pounding out numbers in response to some automated attendant's request only to have to do it again? As a society, we have to have right away but we accept little in the way of support once we have it. And, why is that? Because time is money... and, who best to capitalize on monetary issues but big conglomerates. To offer support you need to invest in people, in processes and have a definite desire to take care of problems and there's a cost to all of that.

No wonder our kids are protesting against corporate greed. For that matter, so am I. Yet, I ask, do any of us have the right message that needs to be heard to fix a growing problem that is worsening exponentially? I personally don't think so. We don’t really know what message we're trying to convey when we protest and we certainly don't know how to communicate our frustrations in a civil, respectful manner anymore. And, most of us haven’t thought out the repercussions that might come from our actions because most we haven't had to think any further than “THE HERE AND NOW” yet we snap at the dimwitted clerk that stands clueless behind the counter, the cable repair guy that's 3 hours late and the person that you've waited 2 hours, 57 minutes and 43 seconds to speak to, who lives in from some far away land, that has an accent so think you don't recognize their language, yet tries to pretend that your next door neighbor.

I bet most of the kids protesting on campuses and in the streets have never lived in a world where ‘no’ or ‘wait’ or ‘understanding what effect you have on others’ was ever taught. The schools don't teach manners any longer because teachers and educators are too busy covering their asses for fear of reprisal, reprimand, firing and lawsuits. Do we even know how to spell the word 'respect' or 'wait your turn' or 'be nice' anymore?

We say we want immediate gratitude but deny offering up in return any form of reverence to obtain it. Look around. Today it’s, “I want more than my fair share!" "And, I want it now!” Whatever happened to earning the things we want?

Funny... when I was growing up, ‘no’ was often given as the answer to the question: "can I have?" long before the words was ever spoken. I doubt that many of the younger generations have ever heard the word ‘no’ because its a negative response and heaven for bid our children be denied anything we think they should have when they feel they should have them.

I grew up poor... not as poor as my parents... but poor enough to realize that we lived on the impoverished side of the tracks. We couldn't afford all the things my friends and some relatives could offered. It wasn't that we lived in poverty, however. My parents did provide bountiful food, a roof over our head, respectable clothing and an education for me and my siblings, though they often struggled to do so. Our well being was their number one priority. But, if I wanted something other than the what they were capable of providing me then I heard back in response: “Well Billy, how do you plan to earn it?" I also remember hearing, “you’ll have to pay your dues,” spouted off every now and then when I thought I was wrongly held back from some sort of recognition. “You need to save up for it” was another common response when I wanted something where the cost was too great for my parents to provide. And, if in getting what I wanted meant working hard to get it, I had to actually do what was expected because that was the only honest way that I was going to obtain it.

Don’t get me wrong.I'm not pointing fingers to place blame because even I am guilty of handing my kids and grandkids stuff they want, versus making them work or earn it, though they would probably argue that point. And, I’m probably “more guilty” than most, for that matter according to my lovely. I give in to them because I love them and don’t want them to go without, just as any loving person would (Fanciful excuse, huh?0. 

So what does all of this 'immediate need' stuff have to do with customer no-service? Well, for one… if we live in a world of ‘immediate need’ wouldn’t that need include help? I would think it would be just as important if not m ore so. Yet, does anyone get that, today? How have we come so far with technology to make things easier to handle with more information than we cared to know about yet think that its okay to stand and wait for hours on end? Yet, we do it all of the time and most of the time we do it unconsciously. We stand in line at the bank, at the grocery store, at the theater, for a concert. Virtually, every place we go, we hurry up to get there because “time is money,” yet once purchased we’re waiting in line for support.

How did we get to be a society where automated attendants are acceptable ways of communicating, let alone provide helpful or meaningful service to the consumer? Don’t you just hate pushing 2 for this department or pressing 6 for that department? And, the latest thing… robo-calling and having to speak back to a computer... what gives there?

When I hear “Please tell us why you’re calling!” coming from a monotone computer-generated voice synthesizer through the receiver what I want to do is yell through the phone: "I'm calling to tell my problems to a useless recording device that most generally will reply to my answers with: 'I'm sorry, I didn't understand that!'" 

How did we get to be a society that accepts service information from a country 10,000 miles away and from people that can barely be understood? Outsourcing customer service jobs to India, Pakistan,Uganda or wherever is the poorest source of customer service that I can think of. In my life, I refuse to accept it.

I’ve vowed to quit doing business with any company who outsources their customer service elsewhere - for several different reasons and there are some big ones. I don’t care how much money that saves Corporations. It’s rude! It’s aggravating! And, it tells me that the company I am doing business with thinks of the consumer as a second rate citizen with little importance other than padding profits for overpaid executives. In my opinion, it’s one of the reasons why we have the economic mess we have today.

Ever feel this way? Well, maybe you need to be a guy for this meme to validate itself but you get the point, I hope... and I'm not trying to be sexist here.

Ever feel this way? Well, maybe you need to be a guy for this meme to validate itself but you get the point, I hope... and I'm not trying to be sexist here.

 

Since I'm on this tangent of outsourcing, let me ask... ever wonder just how many jobs have been sent overseas? Care to guess? In an article written way back in 2001 by the AFL-CIO (I know… bad word) called “Exporting America” they claim 400,000-600,000 professional services and information sector jobs moved overseas. That was 16 years ago folks! The year was 2001.

They claimed that by the year 2015, 3.4 million white-collar jobs will move overseas but the estimates were way off. According to a report distributed at the Outsourcing World Summit, in 2013, 2.6 million US jobs were outsourced overseas and in the year 2014 it was estimated that the number rose to 3.1 million, with a 2015 estimate of 3.7 mil. They went on to say that corporate CFOs attending the conference reported their reasons for sending jobs overseas as:

  • 36% Reduce Costs
  • 36% Focus on Core Values
  • 13% Improve quality
  • 10% Increase speed to  market
  • 4% Foster the image of innovation
  • 1% Conserve capital

In my opinion, reducing salary costs as a reason is more like 95% than 36%. The excuse of focusing on core values doesn't resonate with me. Why can't a company invest in their employees AND focus on core values at the same time. Improved quality is a perceived value that doesn't hold water with me either. And, how does sending customer service jobs overseas foster an image of innovation or increase the ability to bring product to the market faster.

No... its all about the cheap. The real reason is that they can get people to work for slave labor wages by taking their manufacturing and support venues overseas; plain and simple. And, worse yet, these figures do not include the estimated 14 million other jobs that are thought to be at risk, which include other manufacturing sectors that have stalled in since the elections.

Pretty scary huh? And, remember, the article I originally referred to was written 15 years ago.

I contest that if this country’s politicians really wanted to improve the economy here in the US, all they need to do is set significant tariffs and penalties which would include deferring tax privileges, for those US companies that export jobs. They would also tax businesses fairly instead of allowing them huge tax breaks for other perceived values. Would the price of products increase? Yes, they probably would! Would there be inflation? Yes! That would probably happen, too. But, 5-8% of the populous that currently has a difficult time putting food on the table will at least have a way of earning a living by doing an honest day's work and at the very least, retain some pride in the process.

So, I guess what I am saying is that personal and corporate greed has pretty much brought us into the world we live in today: our desire to have whatever now and corporate's desire to line their pocketbooks with cash. Its been an evolutionary process that will take an evolutionary twist to right the ship.