The term “Jobsworth” was coined long ago and people who are inflexible in their decision-making at work when they really could be are everywhere but today’s nationwide and worldwide companies are making it worse by making it institutionalised. The problem with centralised customer services and computerised operations and logistics systems is that a person cannot make an on-the-spot decision to make things easier.
This is true of many things including transport, the prices of goods – where once staff have to jump through hoops to give a bit of a discount for a slightly damaged item for example, or loans where decisions are mostly made by computers based on credit scores.
There can’t be a grey area, decisions are yes, or often as the Little Britain sketch goes “computer says nooo”. I have another parcel on a courier (Yodel) and they tried to deliver it while I was at work twice and then according to their website the only option then was to collect it from their depot, twenty miles away, that’s only open when I’m at work. I rang them and the customer service person gave me the option to have it redelivered – when I’m at work. I had to ring Amazon to change the delivery address to my work one – Catherine at Amazon was very nice and helpful. What happened next was that I looked at Yodel’s site on the Saturday and the parcel was out for delivery – on a day that, according to their site and the customer service man, wasn’t even an option; he was only able to look at the same data I had access to. I was at home, I didn’t know whether Amazon’s request had gone though, whether they were delivering to my home or the work address I wasn’t at. My parcel was in danger of travelling around more than January’s camera.
This inconvenienced me but it shouldn’t have; if I were able to call the local depot, talk to a person who has the parcel in front of them, someone who could say “we do actually deliver on Saturday, will you be at home then?” I’d say yes and they’d schedule one more delivery attempt, I wouldn’t have had to ring Amazon. I had stuff to do but I couldn’t because now I’ve got to wait in, if I’d known I could have done these things the day before as, being Good Friday I was off work – as were Yodel.
This reliance on computer systems is fine if the person accessing them has all the relevant data they need but often they don’t and these systems don’t often allow any flexibility whatsoever in the decision-making process. “The computer says Tuesday so Tuesday it is, except it could be Saturday but because I’m two hundred miles away from the depot I don’t know that they have a van going out on Saturday and I wouldn’t have the authority to ask them to deliver on Saturday if I did anyway, and they might even just try again on Saturday even though the computer says you’ve got to fetch it yourself.”
Our company, and other small firms we work with have that flexibility, we can slot extra jobs in dynamically because not everything is set in stone. Admittedly that can work the other way and things have to be rearranged. It’s not just computers though that cause the problems, so many companies have inflexible rules that don’t allow people to give a little to provide good service.
If you can say to a customer who’s not got quite enough money with them “it’s only 20p difference, I’ll take what you’ve got there” or give them a little something for free whether it’s a bookmark, a pen, a handful of tacks or whatever it makes them feel that you’re doing something to help them, it gives them a warm feeling inside and makes them more likely to come back. Not being able to bypass a rigid system, or not having the right information because of rules or “yes and no” computers makes the customer feel like they’re fighting a battle to get what they want.
Sometimes there’s no choice, as I’ve said before about warranties and the time it takes to make things but where a little flexibility is possible it shouldn’t be held back but allowed to make everyone’s life a bit more pleasant.