After I narrated unpleasant delivery experiences with regional companies ("Whither customer care?" Feb 2, 2023), readers described their own nightmares: delays or damaged goods paid for months back, missing gifts that make their children weep, companies that ignore any wrongdoing, despite repeated customer complaints or dismal ratings from sites like Trustpilot.
Readers, you are right to be angry. But even if I am sorely tempted, I cannot publicly name the companies you cite.
My late mentor Doreen Fernandez, an Inquirer food columnist, told me that if an eatery needed improvement, she talked openly with the owners and managers, but she did not publicly out them. If she wrote something negative, she did not name names. She publicly identified only the places that met her standards.
Similarly, I write about businesses or individuals with best practices, but for those that fall short, I use pseudonyms. When I am personally involved, I air grievances directly to managers or to customer service if higher-ups do not practice US President Harry Truman's dictum "The buck stops here."
However inconvenient, I follow up regularly. I advise readers to do the same.
In the past, Inquirer used to have a consumer protection column, done by Linda Bolido. It should be revived.
Readers, I agree with you. Often the feedback process is so frustrating that we just give up, and the same shoddy services continue. Time is precious, so I choose my battles—often I just chalk up negative experiences as lessons learned.
Three Christmases ago, our school gifted us with an online voucher, which I used to pay for pasta and tomato sauce for our helpers. The package from a well-known conglomerate arrived, with half the food missing. I consoled myself with the hope that the thieves' families had a hearty noche buena, with our school an inadvertent Santa Claus. And I never ordered online from the company again.
Reader EC has this to say: "I am frustrated with businesses that brag about their 'sustainability' and 'innovation' and whatnot. Instead of wasting money on these—who knows if they even do what they say—they should just do their job. Make better products that people can afford and enjoy, and deliver them on time. What's the use of a gift for Christmas that comes after Holy Week?
"I am a senior citizen, but when I was young, businesses did their jobs quietly, without trumpeting slogans. Technologies have advanced today, but service is horrible. And worse, companies are so self-righteous. We don't need them to save the world. We just need them to do their job!"
I am glad that businesses increasingly take environmental, social and governance goals seriously, even if to primarily woo investors and placate shareholders. But I agree with EC that doing their job comes first.
EC is not the only one decrying meaningless slogans.
Bartleby writes in The Economist: "Woolliness is the enemy of accuracy as well as utility … 'Sustainability' is so fuzzy that it is used to encompass everything from a business that thinks sensibly about the long term to the end of capitalism … Too much innovation can be a turnoff for customers … [Also] researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that … employees were more likely to leave firms … with high levels of innovation … The long hours and high pressure that typify innovative cultures can lead to higher staff turnover."
Bartleby adds that such slogans "coat consultants' websites, blanket … CVs and spray from managers' mouths. They are anodyne to the point of being useless."
Bartleby does not mean that these words should never be used. These "are still qualities for firms to aspire to … But it is a plea for managers to use woolly words thoughtfully. They are not going away, but they do not have to suffocate mental activity."
Actions speak louder than words. Businesses, keep your promises to customers, and as EC says, first do your job.
Queena N. Lee is with the board of directors of Ateneo's Family Business Center. Get her book "All in the Family Business" at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]
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