It is a topic that comes up often at work, but never mind that right now. I want to talk about service in my backyard. In my living room, on the phone, and wherever I might be. We all want it right? When we go into the store we want the person working in the store to not bug us too much, but be extremely helpful when we are ready for their help. We want to know when we call our bank or credit card company that they will help us with their questions, and make us feel good about the choices we have made to be a patron of their company. They make money off us right? So why should we be made to feel like we owe them?
Here are a couple of recent examples — and by recent, I mean in the last week. There is not enough time in my day to even list out all from the past month. Yes, I am a service addict and I tend to never forget how I was treated by companies. Really, if you think about it, service levels leave a permanent, laser-etched mark in your mind about their brand. You never forget a horrible service experience and you rarely forget an amazing one — if you ever have one.
Anyway, on to the examples:
Redbox: Over the weekend we reserved a movie on the Redbox app. When Chris went to pick it up, the machine did not work, so he went to another kiosk and rented from there – but since we weren’t able to pick up the movie at the kiosk we reserved it at, we needed to let them know so they would not charge us and so they could be alerted to the problem. Now, I do not care about the $1.50 I was charged, but I do care about principle. If everyone that reserved a movie at that machine did not contact them, how much are they making on their customers, and how many customers would they frustrate?
Their response to our email? They’ll give us a “credit” for another movie to use in the next 30 days. Sorry, but I actually paid for two movies, not one. So credit my account for the amount I was charged in error for your faulty machine. I rarely use Redbox and most likely I am not going to remember to use my “credit.” Plus, I might not even have the chance to use it in the next 30 days. Their solution is better for them, but not for the customer.
Contractors: Dating back to last May we have contacted over 30 contractors to do work on our house. Out of the 30+, maybe 5 have actually followed through with the appointment, and 2 of the 5 have given us bids. I know it is a booming housing market and they have all the business they can possibly handle, but do they realize how brand damaging it is? Service = following through with appointments, calling customers back, and providing bids so homeowners can make educated decisions. We cannot do any of that without contractors providing a very easy service. If you are one of the 30 you will never have our business – your brand has already been damaged.
Why oh why is it so hard for companies to see that one of the most important parts of how they communicate with their customers is how they serve them? With there being more and more options available from many different companies, if you can move or change companies or providers and find one that actually understands how to take care of customers, then those are the companies that are going to make it. It is all in the little things and in the details. Follow through, be accountable for problems, and fix them is the brand image customers remember.
I found a print over the weekend via the fabulous, Elizabeth Gilbert that sums up what I think about a lot of things. It says: “Own your Shit.” I could never frame it and put it on the wall, as it has a bird on it, and I am not a fan of birds. I like the print because it says what I constantly have running through my head. To me “Own your Shit” means bring yourself 100% to your job, relationship, family, wherever in your life. Know who is counting on you, know what is expected of you, and bring it.
I struggle a lot with others that do not take accountability for their actions. If you say you are going to do something do it. Follow through. Think about the individual on the receiving end of what you need to do. Does your not following through leave them hanging? Does it make them look bad? Does it tell them you do not care?
When you drop the ball, own it. Put yourself out there and communicate that you did not own your shit. Let others know. You own it when you are transparent about when you did not come through. It gives you more credibility. When you do not own your shit, you can lose all credibility.
Whatever story you are telling yourself for why your life is more important, or what you need to do is more important than honoring your commitments, it is bullshit. Do what is your responsibility to do. Do not expect someone else to do it for you. Do not take the easy way out. Own it. Know it. Be it.
How often do you pursue an issue not because of the money you save, but because at the end of the day your decision to dig deeper has more to do with principle?
These past few weeks it seems there have been quite a few issues Chris and I have run into where we have to stay adamantly persistent to get to the bottom of an issue due to the principle behind the situation. We always ask ourselves, will fighting this potentially help someone else in the future? If we resolve this, could it mean that maybe what happened to us will not happen to someone else?
Often I think individuals just want to find the path of least resistance, yet that can be the easy way out. The harder, more involved, and sometimes frustrating path is to hold companies and individuals accountable for the mess they sometimes make. I will give you an example. Our company covers one preventative exam per year (per individual covered). It is free. This year Chris went to a different location for his check up. It was one of those quick places, that you just walk in. Quick and easy. Or so he thought.
After the specific provider forced him to pay his co-pay, he remembered that his preventative exam was free. Phone call after phone call to our insurance provider and the medical care provider to hopefully resolve the issue, what he found out was that while this medical provider was “in-network,” yet they were also listed as an “emergency care” provider. The contract between our insurance company and this medical care provider was that copays only apply for non emergency care providers, yet this is not disclosed to us. Based on that, and the contract they had with our company, we were required to pay the copay. Obviously a loophole.
After many hours and phone calls later it is finally resolved. We received a refund of our copay, after our company got involved with our complaint. While this was for a small amount of money, what if it was for $20,000? Does the amount really matter? Is it more about principle? $1 or $100, or $1,000? We should hold others accountable in hopes that we make life easier for individuals in the future.
Accountability: the quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]
This is a topic that I have a strong passion about, and as an avid reader I have tried to find books on this topic that were engaging and I would want to read. It is a topic I think covers most aspects of our lives, whether at home, work, shopping, traveling, etc. However, I find it so lacking in the world. If we stand for honesty and integrity for what we believe in, and we follow through with those values, we are holding ourselves and hopefully in turn others accountable.
It is not that easy though. If it is hard for us to confront a family member regarding a specific situation that might make us uncomfortable, then we are not holding ourselves and those involved accountable. If we keep letting a friend off the hook and we start to feel they are abusing us, then we are not holding either individual accountable.
“The irony of all this is that the only way for a team to develop a true culture of peer-to-peer accountability is for the leader to demonstrate that she is willing to confront difficult situations and hold people accountable herself. That’s right. The leader of the team, though not the primary source of accountability, will always be the ultimate arbiter of it. If she is reluctant to play that role–if she is a wuss who constantly balks when it’s time to call someone on their behavior or performance–then the rest of the team is not going to do their part. This makes sense. Why would a team member want to confront a colleague about an issue when the team leader isn’t willing to and is probably going to let them off the hook anyway?” (page: 56)
“At its core, accountability is about having the courage to confront someone about their deficiencies and then to stand in the moment and deal with their reaction, which may not be pleasant. It is a selfless act, one rooted in a word that I don’t use lightly in a business book: love. To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies.” (page 57)
Wow. Never thought I would read that. Love. Caring enough about someone to call them out on their junk, their stuff, their baggage, even if it is uncomfortable. Are you setting goals for yourself and then not following through with them? Are you holding your team members and manager accountable?
Sometimes taking the harder road is the one that prompts us to grow. The tough route challenges us to look at life differently. Look at accountability in your life. Is it there? Are others holding you accountable? Are you holding others accountable?
Just something to mull over on your “hopefully” sunny Tuesday!