The sad state of customer service

We recently had an encounter that left a bitter aftertaste. The air-conditioner in our bedroom was having problems. The company that service our air-conditioners mis-diagnosed, causing us to spend money replacing something that was unnecessary. In the end, we have to buy a new unit. We asked for advice on what replacement unit we should get and they told us we will need a 2.5 horsepower (hp) unit. When they turned up to install it, we checked and found that instead of a 2.5 hp unit, they are actually going to install a 2hp unit. Rather than admitting a mistake, they claimed that such information were from the manufacturer. With the amount of information online, the claim was easily proven false. We suspect they had purposely misled the customers so that they can sell at a higher price. We sent them away and bought it from another company.

This episode got me thinking about the attitude of the employers and employees. Honesty seems to be optional. Taking responsibility is a no-no. Admitting a mistake is unacceptable. The result is a loss of business. Without enough business, they don’t get paid much. With low pay, they aren’t motivated to do better. The cycle repeats. The employer and employee are engaging in a “who-blink-first” game. Sadly, it usually results in vicious cycle.

What can we do, both as employers and employees ? I think it boils down to trust. We can start a relationship that is based on trust or a lack of it. Happy employees make happy customers.

In the situation where it lacks trust, both sides want to see evidence before giving something in return. The employer will want to see results before giving the employee a better pay. The employee will only do better if he gets more money. At best, it will stay as a stalemate and we see no improvements. More than likely, anger and frustration triggers negative thoughts and actions towards a race to the bottom.

On the other hand, if the party trusts each other, the employer can pay better and expect more from the employee. There is now an incentive for the employee to work harder. If he doesn’t, there will be consequences. Or the employee takes the initiative to do more, prompting the employer to pay better.

Let’s say that one side did better and the other didn’t deliver. In the short-term, yes, we will lose out. The employer can manage out poor performers. Similarly, if an employee has been putting in additional work and is taken for granted, he can take his skill and initiative somewhere else. In the longer term, we get progress.

Most of us want to do better. A little trust goes a long way in moving us in the right direction.

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