BTW: Seeking customer service? Don’t bank on it
Business management is one of the most popular courses offered by universities here and overseas. In the US three times more students enroll than for education.
Undergrads presumably think a biz degree is a passport to profit, though the smarter ones must be asking: ‘If my teacher knows so much about running a company, why isn’t she doing that and making 50 times more money?’
Most courses have a unit on Keeping Customers Happy. Topics taught include the importance of repeat trade from satisfied clients. That means encouraging buyer feedback.
The best way is for staff to talk to patrons. But that would mean human communication, which takes time, which is money. If there’s someone in your home over 70, ask if they can recall the days when bank tellers knew names and gave service.
Now the cheapest way to relate is by using computers to ask cellphones through on-line questionnaires. On the screen there’s often a wee icon of a steaming cup of coffee suggesting the process will be relaxing. Or maybe the machine runs on caffeine. It tells you: ‘It will take only two minutes.’
That’s lie Number One. Add a zero to the ‘two’. Most forms start by asking for more personal information than a request for a ten billion rupiah loan to build a casino in Aceh.
Then follows a series of boxes to tick. If these are irrelevant and left blank, or you don’t want to give your phone number for fear of harassment, the system won’t accept your complaint.
If that obstacle is overcome expect an anodyne response starting with the line: ‘Thanks for completing – your views are important to us’.
That’s lie Number Two. Provided targets are being met and the income line forever heading north then the business taking your cash couldn’t care a damp fag end for your thoughts. Proof of this cynicism comes a few lines further:
‘Due to the vast correspondence received, we may not be able to answer your message personally. But be assured your opinions will be analyzed by our team.’
That’s lie Number Three. ‘Team’ is the new buzzword suggesting a group of elite athletes, like Manchester United or the New York Yankees, are huddling over your concerns and building a game plan response.
The reality is that your ‘feedback’ goes into the digital version of a paper shredder. That’s not salient to the company. More important is that the corporate goal of establishing Customer Relations has been achieved. Management can now tick another box.
In some countries there are tough Consumer Protection laws and agencies. There’s one in Indonesia though it’s as ferocious as a drowned moggy in the Ciliwung. An effective deterrent is publishing names of miscreants.
If you’ve built a corporate brand featuring TV starlets dancing with delight after using your product, a headline revealing your business treats customers like billygoats during Idul Kurban (the Feast of Sacrifice) may not assist sales.
Remember Hillary Clinton in 2016 getting caught saying Donald Trump supporters were ‘a basket of deplorables’? That didn’t help draw too many wavering voters to the Democrats.
Smart managers realize it’s best to treat complainants seriously and give the refund rather than spending greater sums in battling bureaucrats. The dopes dig in for a war of attrition hoping the customer will have a stroke after calling and texting 50 times and getting no reply.
Banks and telecommunication services cop the most anguish, and here it becomes a test of strength. Who’s most powerful – the people or business?
In Australia the answer became clear when a Royal Commission was called to investigate the behavior of financial institutions. In this open forum and against detailed submissions from angry customers the banks were forced to admit misconduct.
Commissioner Kenneth Hayne pondered why and last year concluded the answer was greed – ‘the pursuit of short term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty..... From the executive suite to the front line, staff were measured and rewarded by reference to profit and sales.’
Is that happening here?
There’s no space in this paper to detail the wrongs Mr Hayne listed – but one example tells much: Banks were charging fees for financial advice to customers. Many were dead, some for a decade, so no feedback.
The computers never noticed because the questionnaires failed to ask: ‘Are you still alive? Tick Yes or No.’ Duncan Graham
(First published in The Jakarta Post 29 February 2020)