Saturday, 12 July 2014

Break the rules

I like people who break the rules. I don’t mean criminals who break the law, I’ve got fairly old-fashioned views about them. I mean people who either decide that certain business rules, norms or conventions shouldn’t apply to them or who think that things can be done better if the conventional rules are ignored or rejected.

Steve Jobs, the founder and late leader of Apple was a great example of a rule-breaker. He defied assumptions in the technology world and created a brand that differentiated itself from the rest. Apple is now one of the most valuable companies in the world and they achieved that by following the advice of perhaps their most advertising slogan: “Think different”. By unleashing their imagination, by redefining the creative process and by paying obsessive attention to detail they became a market leader. Critics felt they could never win against tech giants like Microsoft but they were quite rapidly proved wrong.

Richard Branson of the Virgin empire is also famous for ignoring the rules. When he started his airline, Virgin Atlantic, he was competing against companies much, much bigger than his and most people were suspicious about whether he could ever succeed against them. But he too proved them completely wrong.

Closer to home there’s Capitec, the South African bank that greatly disturbed the banking market in SA. By offering a more dynamic, flexible and appealing set of products than the bigger banks they cleaned up. Unfortunately for the bigger, older banks they only noticed this when it was too late. According to some reports Capitec is now South Africa’s second largest provider of unsecured loans and is now one of the biggest banks in the country.

I wonder if the bigger banks here in Botswana have noticed that there are smaller, perhaps more flexible banks here as well?

I also like it when consumers break rules. One consumer contacted us recently on Facebook and told us about the complaints procedure he’d seen at a hospital he’d visited. It had ten steps. If you had a complaint about the service you received you first were required to contact the Supervisor in charge, then the PR officer, then the Matron, then the Hospital Manager, then the Hospital Superintendent, then the Ministry of Health toll-free number, then the relevant Director in the Ministry, then the Permanent Secretary, then the Minister of Health and finally the Office of the President.

About the only people not involved in that sequence of steps are the Police, the head of your religion and the Secretary General of the United Nations.

There are so many things I despise about that procedure but above all there’s this. Isn’t it just the most pessimistic procedure you’ve ever seen? What that procedure really says is that the hospital is confident that you’re going to be disappointed at every step of the procedure. That’s why there are so many of them. A cynic might suggest that they’re probably hoping that you’ll eventually become so exhausted and give up.

The other problem is that companies get obsessed with their customer following these procedures to the letter and customer really don’t like this. Some months ago a consumer posted a comment on our Facebook page criticizing the service from a certain security company. Fairly soon afterwards someone claiming to be a manager of the company posted a message saying that there was a fixed complaints procedure that customer were required to use and that Facebook wasn’t part of that process. Needless to say he was very quickly swamped with critical messages from other members of the group telling where he could stick his procedure.

We heard from another reader just a few days ago who asked us for advice. She’d posted a complaint about a financial services provider on our Facebook group but then she got a phone call. She told us she:
“got a call from the Sales Consultant and he firstly told me how unhappy he is about the way I handled the complaint, his friends and everyone is taking about the post. Please need advice here was I wrong to post that?”
No, of course she wasn’t wrong. She was perfectly within her rights to complain in any way she felt fit.

[Update: a senior manager contacted us saying "On behalf of management we are appalled by this behaviour, this is not our conduct and we will deal with the matter. Kindly inform the client that she was certainly not at fault and this issue will be resolved."]

Here’s a secret that many organizations don’t want you to know.

Complaints procedures are entirely voluntary.

You can choose to follow a company’s complaints procedure if you think it’s sensible and if it meets your needs but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. No, despite what they’ll say, you don’t have to follow it.

Instead we suggest that you adopt the Official Recommended Consumer Watchdog Complaints Policy. Use this procedure for every organization you can think of, no matter how big or small it might be, no matter if it’s a local company or an international one.

Step 1. Complain directly to the first person you meet, perhaps even the one who you think mistreated you.
Step 2. If Step 1 didn’t work, escalate your complaint to the person in charge of the office or branch you’ve visiting. They’ll have the word “manager” somewhere in their job title.
Step 3. If Step 2 didn’t work now complain to the person in charge of the entire organization. Their title will be “Managing Director” or “Chief Executive Officer”. Do not allow anyone to suggest that other people should be involved.

Alternatively here’s another suggestion, an even simpler, 2-step procedure.

Step 1. Complain directly to the first person you meet, perhaps even the one who you think mistreated you.
Step 2. If Step 1 didn’t work, call Consumer Watchdog.

Go ahead, feel free to break some rules.

1 comment:

Kasey Chang said...

I think it is a matter of courtesy to at least, ATTEMPT to follow the "official" complaint procedure, rather than going straight to social media.

If no results have been heard for, say, 3 business days, or even 5 (a full week in real time) then I see no reason not to complain via social media.

IMHO, of course.