A Jigger of Common Sense

Why put someone through service hell when we can make the right decision the first time?

This question has been rolling around the cavern of my skull for a while.  All of us have had a bad customer service experience.  It’s almost a right of passage into adulthood.  Even something as simple as being told “no”, then being told “no” by the manager, then being told “yes” upon further complaint. I can remember the first irritating customer service experience I was a part of. What has always been the kicker for me is that no one thinks differently. No one likes it. No one thinks people should just shut up and take whatever crap is being shoveled their way. Perhaps in the past that sentiment existed, but in the mobile economy of today service like that can cut deeply into the bottom line. I would posit that perhaps a little bit, a jigger, of common sense would go a long way to alleviating the issues many companies and consumers face.

Just recently I saw a coworker who made a mistake. To correct this mistake he needed to contact his manager and ask her to fix it. Having done this he was told that there was nothing they could do (Which is a lie. A correct formulation would read, “we chose to do nothing, although we are within our authority to do so.”) Said coworker is forced to let the affected customer know that the company screwed up, but that we would not be taking corrective action. The customer was advised to contact the manager directly if there were any questions. The customer did contact said manager and after arguing for a whole day back and forth on the phone, his issue was resolved in his favor. Now not all issues are simple, and many policies and regulations exist for good reason, but if the end result was the same what was the purpose of making the customer handle it himself? Had the situation been resolved immediately a positive experience would have been had by all. So why was this person forced to navigate the circles of hell just to have an issue fixed?

There is one major cause and it infects and pervades many older companies. There is a lack of common sense inherent in the decision-making process on the lowest levels. Companies have beat it out of themselves over time. People are more afraid of contravening an established guideline than they are of doing something stupid. We lack the fear of stupidity. When pressed we will cave and act sensibly, but we must be pushed to that point by an external force. Great and mighty will be the company that fosters a sense of responsibility to core values and strikes a righteous balance between that sense and the codified policy. Wherever people are told they have freedom to truly meet needs on a person by person basis, but feel neutered by the workplace culture, common sense goes lacking. Drizzling but a jigger of common sense over everything by allowing people to make the right decision in a timely manner will drive customer experience up. As customer experience goes, so to goes profit… Or something like that.

The Fenceless Gatekeeper:

Inspired by a friend of mine and his encounter with a Fenceless Gatekeeper.

You have coordinated a team and established a plan for your project. Your leaders are satisfied with your preparedness and approve your project. Like a band of adventurers, you and your team go forth on the journey laid out. As with all good adventure stories, you don’t get very far before trouble emerges. One of your teammates (we’ll call him Drake) raises a concern about the mountain you must climb. The unformed disquiet seems immune to reason as Drake continues to revisit the topic, refining his hypothetical pitfalls. Despite his fervor, the rest of the team decides the concerns aren’t relevant to the current state of the work. Drake digs in and demands each step up the mountain be planned out before he allows any further progress. He has now revealed himself as the Fenceless Gatekeeper.

Drake is a Fenceless Gatekeeper, because his demand for structured decisions is irrelevant to context. A gate without a fence is not only useless, it’s confusing. While the Fenceless Gatekeeper can be genuine in their demand for structure, they may also use this demand as an excuse subvert the final outcome.

fenceless
Credit to : James Martin (@Pundamentalism) February 9, 2013

[Just WHY?]

Of course, the Fenceless Gatekeeper doesn’t exercise control that would reasonably stop the team. There isn’t a fence around the gate, after all. However, the Fenceless Gatekeeper creates effort as the team tries to understand the contextless concerns with their current state. More importantly, Drake forces the team into deciding whether to comply with his irrelevant structure or leave him behind and risk not having the manpower to complete their project; just the kind of nonsense that will quickly make you as irrelevant as a Fenceless Gate in the middle of a prairie.