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Curing Bad Customer Service —
Just a Dollar a Minute
Although lightly reported on, you've probably been exposed to the BCS virus, which has reached pandemic proportions beyond even the swine flu. While rarely fatal, BCS can be unpleasant and lead to side effects such as increased blood pressure, weight gain, poor immunities, and heart disease. Left unchecked, BCS among workers can have serious impacts on business profitability and the economy.
That is to say... Bad Customer Service.
We've all experienced it — the surly clerk who won't offer a refund without a long argument; the checker who hides, talking with a friend rather than opening a new checkout lane despite the crowd; the airline that inexplicably cancels your flight or loses your luggage and doesn't seem to care what trouble it causes you. Check out "7 Stories That Prove The Airlines Hate You" for some sad tales. Everyone has stories how they had their time wasted by insensitive employees, bad management, nonsense rules, and mean-spirited policies.
It all comes down to time. Let's face it, Time is the measurement unit of your life. You've only got so many minutes on planet Earth. When a company wastes them, they quite literally waste your life without your permission. Sometimes you give willing permission — you tacitly agree to stand in line for a burger for the typical length of time it takes a burger joint to serve the customers you can see ahead of you in line. You tacitly agree to sit at the airport gate some reasonable number of minutes ahead of boarding time. But if you didn't have to you wouldn't want to wait an hour in a TSA security line or sit on a runway for three hours, would you? Loads of fun! Really, these weren't part of the original understanding. You've got better things to do with your time.
Yet organizations have learned that people will accept these kinds of attacks on their time — their life — and they factor it into their business practices and profit models. They even make money by choosing to deliberately inconvenience you and waste your time. Airlines routinely overbook flights, knowing a certain number of passengers will simply be denied a seat through no fault of their own. They know they can blame "the weather" or "the computer" for their own intentionally inadequate planning and resources. Or if not intentional, these are largely avoidable if they chose to value your time.
Here's a simple solution: Pay people $1 per minute of time wasted.
"Wasted" means beyond the reasonable time consumers expect, and not because of the fault of the consumer. This could be a law (unlikely, but wouldn't it be great?), a social convention (if enough people demand it), or simply a guideline you use when seeking compensation from a bout with BCS.
Why $1/minute? We need some measure of what the average person's time is worth. A simple formula is to look at what people contribute to the economy: The US GDP is approximately $14 trillion, which when divided into the roughly 200 million workers in the country, who spend around 2000 hours per year working, gives a "value" to people's time of 58 cents per minute. Round up to $1 because we're talking punitive here. We're trying to change bad behavior.
This works regardless why your time was wasted, and it scales to fit the size of the offense. Now you probably wouldn't demand a buck from Walmart because you had to wait an extra 60 seconds while the clerk chatted with a pal instead of serving you, but if Walmart knew you might do so, and that they were on the hook for it, businesses would have the economic incentive to teach Good Customer Service and have managers properly oversee it. If you have to sit on hold an hour to complain about an error in your phone bill, doesn't that sound worth $60 to you off your bill? Your three hour flight delay would net you $180, and maybe that is worth asking for. The poor passengers in that story above who had to fly back to Mexico from Oregon because they couldn't handle immigration — if they were delayed 24 hours, doesn't $1400 cash sound like a start on compensation for that level of stupidity?
More importantly, the airline would have the nudge to make sure there's some workable plan in place to get you to your destination on time. Right now they're stealing your $60 and your $180 and your $1400 from you, intentionally, because they know that although people will grumble, they won't fight hard to get fair compensation. So: Fight for it.
The next time you hear, "Hello, thank you for calling customer service, we're too busy to help you and we know you can't do anything if we put you on hold for an hour", think: Ka-ching! And ask for a buck a minute. (Sometimes it actually works! And don't you think you're worth it?)
Market forces and government regulation sometimes address the more egregious of these acts, though often in a minimalistic manner, and not in the small scale that eats up your time as if it doesn't matter to you. There has to be some amount of time that is reasonable for a given situation, so don't go overboard, but we all know when we're getting taken advantage of. Many companies have forgotten that "The Customer is Always Right" is good business. Imagine if there were a law and voila! your valuable time becomes a factor in businesses' policies. Hit them in the pocket book — it's the only language they understand. Suddenly making the customer happy makes economic business sense.
Of course lawmakers probably wouldn't listen at first, but wouldn't a buck a minute be nice? And who knows — as a wise man once said, "You don't get anything unless you ask for it." The more people who ask for compensation for unreasonably wasted time, the stronger the message to companies that it's unacceptable. When enough people ask for it, it becomes a social convention, which is often stronger than a law. Set expectations that wasting your time is not acceptable.
So what the heck, save the time of your life — demand a buck a minute to cure the BCS virus.
[ 10 comments | Add a comment ]
10 posts • Page 1 of 1
[Reposted from old comment system, from Simon Howells on Tue, 07 Aug 2012 05:12:11 0000]
Yes please, create that charge! My blog at http://crapcustserv.blogspot.com/ focuses specifically on poor service, including how long some companies waste (and Government departments e.g. UK's tax office http://crapcustserv.blogspot.com/2011/0 ... -hell.html). If that charge became standard things might change!
[Reposted from old comment system, from aburt on Tue, 04 May 2010 16:24:56 0000]
Another update -- I heard about the "Ben Franklin" plumbing group and related companies, who pledge to be on time to their appointment, or they pay $5/minute for each minute late. Aha!
[Reposted from old comment system, from aburt on Fri, 26 Mar 2010 14:57:57 0000]
Just adding an update -- Sometimes they DO get it!
We flew on Southwest Airlines the other day, and it took them two hours to unload the checked bags for all the passengers on our flight. (During which nobody at Southwest seemed to know what was going on.)
But -- before I even got to contact them to request compensation for wasted time -- they sent a voucher for $100 apologizing for the snafu.
Kudos to Southwest Airlines for understanding your time matters and making good for it!
[Reposted from old comment system, from Erik Aronesty on Wed, 24 Mar 2010 11:05:14 0000]
> It isn't like you can protest and say, "I am only going to pay you this amount."
Of course it is. We just have a social mindset that asking to pay less is "being cheap". I *often* protest high prices and have *often* negotiated discounts.... from monthly fees at my 401K processor (saved $25/month), to the price of my car (saved $500), to the percentage charged by my credit card processor (from 2.2% to 1.8%).
Anyone can negotiate... it's all about being willing to break with social convention.
[Reposted from old comment system, from aburt on Tue, 09 Mar 2010 23:09:22 0000]
Yes, a number of times when I've been waiting on hold a ridiculously long time for a billing error (for example with my phone company and credit card), or in a long customer service line at a store to return a defective product. They often open the door by first apologizing for the wait. I've politely pointed out that my time is valuable, and they've taken a lot of it to resolve a problem not of my making, and ask if they might be willing to give me a credit of $X, where X equals the number of minutes I've been waiting. Sometimes they go off and ask a supervisor, then make some sort of manual adjustment to my account. (Easier with a place you _have_ an account where they can do a customer satisfaction credit or whatnot, but a store can do a gift card, for example.) You may have to get a manager involved, but that's good -- the higher up the management chain the message goes the better.
Often times they say no, but the point is still made. If enough people make the point, it eventually becomes a common matter.
The recent law imposing fines on airlines for waiting on the runway more than three hours is a great example of this idea in practice. (Though that money doesn't go to the passenger, as it should.)
[Reposted from old comment system, from Leo on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 07:55:57 0000]
>The next time you hear, "Hello, thank you for calling customer service, we're >too busy to help you and we know you can't do anything if we put you on hold >for an hour", think: Ka-ching! And ask for a buck a minute. (Sometimes it >actually works!
Can you cite a specific incident of this kind where it worked and you got your $1/min?
[Reposted from old comment system, from Guest on Sun, 20 Sep 2009 19:20:58 0000]
The problem is that fighting bad service is itself a time-sink. Protests take time, persistence, and a lot of emotional eergy and mindshare. It's almost like adding insult to injury. Most of the time, all you will get is an apology from someone in the company, who tells you that it shouldn't have worked that way. At most, some low-level hourly-wage employee will get in trouble.
It's a race to the bottom for many companies as they cut costs. They hire inexperienced employees, they don't bear the cost of training them, and they know the customer is trapped because their competitors are doing the same thing. I'm not talking about cost-cutting because of the recession; I'm talking of cutting costs because they can, and it will improve the bottom line.
Part of the reason is that good service costs, and it's an intangible; while the price of something is clearly stated up front.
[Reposted from old comment system, from Jennifer on Fri, 31 Jul 2009 17:23:58 0000]
Excellent points all around! If enough of us do this informally, maybe it will become customary! I think I'll link this article to several of my social sites & my blog: let's change the world...
(I'm just an old-fashioned rabble rouser...)
[Reposted from old comment system, from George on Sun, 26 Jul 2009 00:23:36 0000]
If you ask me, bad customer service or rediculously high prices for a product from somebody that knows they can get away with charging what ever they want, go hand in hand. It isn't like you can protest and say, "I am only going to pay you this amount." As much as I would like to believe that we had that sort of ability, I know we don't. It would really take a lot of people, millions, in fact, to band together, form a pact and stand behind it without waivering, without giving in and stop purchasing altogether. Don't fly, don't drive, don't call that taxi cab, no train rides and no buses. If this could be done, then the companies suffering from the losses would be forced to take action and get people buying again, they would be forcing their employees to treat every customer with respect, the way a customer should be treated.
I see that as a complete impossibility. With the need that people have to travel and the fuel that is needed to do so, there is no clear solution. The last time I flew, I delt with very high prices and rude personel.
I read a news story where a man started calling 911 over and over from a MacDonalds after receiving poor service an cold food. He called 911 and demanded that they help him to retrieve his money. But he was only fined for misuse of the 911 service. What would have happened if 100 or 200 people were there demanding better treatment. I think the outcome would have been much different, especially if they held together as a group. They wouldn't have had to call 911, the team At the MacDonalds would have done that for them.
I have seen large protests fail and have seen them open the eyes of many. The fact that so many were sticking together for that cause made it even more effective. Demanding your money back, or demanding that you're paid back for your time being wasted because of the failures of others would be a wonderful justice. If something like that were set into law, just emagine the changes that would occure in customer service. I just don't see that happening until everybody has the ability, all at the same time to say, "No, we are not going to accept this kind of treatment any longer."
To cure this virus, we need the right vacine. If you can get the word out to the billions that need to hear this and you can get them to band up and stand up, I'll stand with you to kill a sickness that really needs to be eradicated.
10 posts • Page 1 of 1