Politics are not just about candidates and elections, political impact reaches into the fabric of our lives – into our jobs, homes, bedrooms, relationships, consumer choices, even our uteruses. Sometime it can be difficult to see the link between a decision in Washington and the way it manifests in our lives. Using a figurative zoom lens – like the one described yesterday – can help. Here is a personal, real world experience in which I draw a parallel to the current business/political climate and get good results. It’s a bit of self advocacy.
I have had a few recent unpleasant experiences with large corporations that perhaps you can relate to. It goes like this: I research a product, make a choice and fork over my dollars to purchase said product. There is some issue with the product and so, to resolve that issue I attempt to get assistance with the company. At this point in my customer experience, customer service is only a myth of yesteryear; I only get phone trees, online customer forums, and multiple automated messages assuring me of how much the corporation appreciates and cares about me. I am only rarely able to speak to a human at all and if I do find a human, that human has no power or interest in helping me with my product issue. Meanwhile I spend hours on the phone growing more and more frustrated, wondering what has happened to the motto, “the customer is always right”. Mention that to any financially successful business in the U.S. and it will probably be followed by gales of laughter. Humans and humanity have been subtracted from the world of business; profits over people rule the day.
In my most recent case of making a purchase from Best Buy, I purchased a laptop online. Though I was told dozens of times how important my business and calls were to them – by a recorded voice – I was only able to find a human that could actually help me after a month of trying. They did not send the laptop and gave no indications that they would send the laptop. Am I wrong to assume that a transaction still means an exchange of goods and services? Is it presumptuous of me to want to receive a product that I have paid for? Is it selfish in this age to want to interact with a human that can actually address the situation and provide me any indication that a resolution is forthcoming? Do I really need to traverse the phone tree equivalent of Dante’s inferno just to indeed receive what I’ve paid for? I don’t think so.
It seems to be commonplace right now that many businesses – corporations – simply take money from customers and say to hell with the rest. I for one am sick of it; I am guessing that I’m not alone. The lack of customer service attention paid to me is not due to my rude behavior – I kept a civil tongue – it’s due to our business climate. In order for a company to get ahead they have to “run lean” (translation: lay a bunch of people off and forget the value they added to the business), they have to “oursource” (translation: make the customers do work for you), they have to “work smart” (translation: scare the crap out of the remaining workforce so that they will put in lots of free overtime work and take on more responsibility without additional pay). If a corporation does not employ these tactics the chances are that they will be forced to via an investor or shareholder. No value is placed on the humans involved; our work force is getting cheaper by the minute and we humans are treated accordingly.
I’m guessing that thousands or even millions of others have experienced the very same frustrating run around in regards to customer service. If corporations can outsource research (customer forums), management (phone trees), and follow ups (“hello?…..hello?…”) to us customers, maybe I can outsource some of my problem issues to them, you know kind of an exchange. Here is how I might do this; I welcome everyone’s creativity to find your own ways of upping the ante when it comes to dealing with these bullies of (corporate)personhood.
I have two children grade school age, somewhat hyperactive. I will give my local branch of Best Buy one more chance to be civilized and help me, their customer, and then I will take action. I will purchase jelly filled, sugar sprinkled doughnuts and allow my two boys to keep them in their pockets. We will calmly enter the store and I will occupy my usual place in line with the customer service. I will only instruct my boys to find something to do while I wait in line, and allow them to eat when hungry. They love video games, computers, phones, and cameras and thoroughly enjoy the floor models in stores. If I have to wait long, I might need to offer them some juice boxes. If it is a very long time it may call for a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos on the floor near customer service. For this special occasion – and since my wait is likely to be quite long to get any true help – I may even allow them to bring some of their electronic toys that sing, beep, and buzz loudly. The youngest sometimes keeps a whistle in his pocket and enjoys blowing that at times. Keeping kids busy while we consumers do the work that corporations have outsourced to us, is difficult. It’s time that those corporations feel the crunch.
We must stop taking this insult to our daily lives. Obviously customer service is a casualty of downsizing and rethinking corporate profits. Yes, some customer service lines reroute to India where we cannot understand the heavily accented “Justin” on the other end, but much of the work seems to be outsourced…to us! We spend our precious hours trying to help ourselves, hamper our bodies with additional stress, our livelihoods suffer due to lack of equipment or attention (I went a month with no computer!!!). They continually ask us – through a recorded voice – to chase our own tails then insult us by using that same recorded voice to thank us for our business. I’ve met more considerate schoolyard bullies. Please join me in putting pressure –by any non-violent, legal means necessary – on customer service. I do feel sorry for those behind the counters making barely over minimum wage, but we must make the company feel the inconvenience like we feel it. The old school motto of “the customer is always right”, has been replaced with a new unspoken one, “the customer is always too busy and weary to make a fuss”.
This lack of attention on the part of Best Buy and its corporate ilk are yet another reason to buy local. I did have a happy ending to my issue in that I finally got the attention of a local manager and ended up with a laptop for a seventh of the price. Civil disobedience- even when legal – can be effective if we take the time. Activate in all the areas of your life, that is what the “Occupy” trend is really about. Wake up and see how the political policy really does trickle down on you. In the meantime, if you are planning a visit to Best Buy in the near future, perhaps you should bring some handiwipes – just in case.
Thanks to Andrew Toos for the political cartoon.