Daily Archives: July 29th, 2010

Now that is customer service

A visual representation from our last office staff meeting. I'm the one on the far right.

I’m going to admit to belief in an amazing premise. This might be the only time I ever say something remotely like this so pay attention! 🙂

The premise is this: I assume that even those of us who hate our jobs with every fiber of our being and think customers are obliviots still make the effort (in vain) to actually help and provide service to our customers.

It still surprises me so much every time I realized that in spite of everything I actually cared! I must try harder.

Even so, some amazing situations can still develop. This is a story about one of them.

Our store’s web site has a feature that will send an automated email message to customers when we are running behind on their order. It’s a cheesy system but at least it pings the customer and lets them know something is still going on.

Sometimes, though, that system bites us in the ass and makes us look like fools. And, as far as I’m concerned, I can always use a good belly laugh like that! I’m not personally invested. The system sure as hell wasn’t my idea!

In regards to the particular order in question a customer had ordered four widgets. Three had already shipped. A fourth widget, however, was backordered and the fulfillment date was the ever-popular “unknown.” The customer chose to call in and exercise his right to cancel the widget and have his money returned rather than wait for some nebulous date. For some odd reason customers don’t seem to think “it’s on a big boat somewhere in the middle of the ocean” is specific enough information.

Now here’s the fun part. Because our accounting department takes so damn long to process refunds, our system has been emailing the customer the automated “sorry your widget is late – we’re working really hard on it” bullshit email every few days for a product that has already been canceled!!!

Why the hell should it take over seven days to refund a customer money? Search me! That’s just the way we roll here in the shithole. “Quick to charge but slow to refund” is our motto!

Every cloud has a silver lining (or so I’ve heard) and this one is that our own incompetence and lack of caring makes us look especially idiotic. I just love happy endings!

Hyppo and Critter: The Great Debate

Boss tutorial: assigning tasks

The boss is a nitwit fool. Daily I’m amazed that he actually somehow had the intelligence and competence enough to create and run this company. It’s simply mind-boggling.

I’ve blogged plenty of times about how he routinely sells items for less than what he paid for them because he doesn’t feel it is worth staff time to update prices on our web site. Riiiiight. Now you hopefully understand the mentality we are dealing with here.

If there is one thing above all else that the boss loves it is handing out we. He just loves assigning “tasks” as he likes to call them.

This morning he assigned me one. If your goal is to Destroy Your Employees you can’t be just all willy nilly about it. Using task assignments to damage, confuse and demoralize your employees is much like revenge – it’s a dish best served cold. And it also takes a bit of planning to be done properly. Task assignment shouldn’t be wielded like a blunt instrument. It should be subtlety finessed so that intestines will splay over the greatest possible distance following employee disembowelment.

I struggled to come up with a workable example of this morning’s task fiasco and this is what I came up with. I’ll tell you right up front it’s a lame example. But it works.

Boss: Tom, I want you to take 26 blocks, one for each letter of the alphabet, and put them on this shelf here, all in row.

Me: Aye, Captain.

The boss’ instructions sound simple enough, eh? Amazing I was trusted to count up to 26 all by myself. (For once no micromanaging.) And I even had one of each letter. Being a fairly intelligent fellow I had no problems so far.

But then I realized that his instructions fell short. The bosses around around here often fail to provide enough detail to properly complete their tasks. You either have to stop and seek “direction” or fill in the gaps on your own.

In this particular case he failed to specify if the order of the blocks made any difference to him. Since he didn’t specify, I thought about it for a moment, and said to myself, “Might as well put them on the shelf alphabetically.” It seemed like a logical way to do it to me.

My task done, I moved on to other important matters like having the phone shoved into my ear and shaken James Bond style to completely scramble my brains.

Some time later the boss looked me up and said, “Hey. You did that task wrong.” He always put things so nicely. I can tell he really cares about my feelings.

“Eh? ORLY?!?” I screamed into the abyss. Which is another way of saying I didn’t say a word and silently accepted his thrusting.

“Yeah, I wanted ‘Z’ to be the first letter and ‘A’ to be the last letter.” Try to imagine these words being said with the petulance of a small child, especially the “I wanted” part.

Well holy fuck shit dip wad! If that is what you wanted, why the hell didn’t you say so right up front? It’s almost like he’s playing with me. There is overhead involved in this task and now I get to redo all that overhead … again. Is that efficient? Hardly. So I returned to the shelf and swapped the ‘A’ and the ‘Z’.

Problem solved, right?

Nope! Then the boss hunted me down again and said, “I also wanted the ‘J’ to come after the ‘V’.”

Could there possibly be a more inefficient way to go about this? It is sure hard to imagine. So again I redid all the overhead involved in the task, grabbed the ‘J’ and stuck it directly after the ‘V’.

Of course, at this point, there will typically be at least one more directive from the boss, usually one that completely reverses an earlier order. I imagine this takes place even if everything is to his liking if only for the sole purpose of fucking with me. In this case it was something like, “OK, now reverse the ‘A’ and the ‘Z’. I want the ‘A’ to be first and the ‘Z’ to be last.” This is usually accompanied by some sort of sneer, as if to imply, “Geez, what a friggin’ moron is Tom. What the hell was he thinking? Having the letters in that order didn’t even make sense! I better put a reminder on my iPhone to micromanage his ass more for awhile. Good thing I personally checked this out or everything would have gone completely to shit.”

The real icing on this cake, however, is that either way wouldn’t make one bit of friggin’ difference. Not in a million years. The only difference it makes is in the imaginary world the boss has created in his mind. But it makes the boss feel important to decide things and, not only that, to make me run around implementing his decisions. I imagine he goes home at night, kicks off  his shoes, and thinks to himself, “Wow. I really managed those employees today!”

I’ll abandon my dumbass example now, but I think you get the point. And the sad thing is, I’m not exaggerating or making this up. Not one little bit. And I’ve got the chat logs to prove it. Maybe someday when it is no longer necessary to give a shit about protecting my job at this company I’ll publish the boss chat logs in a book. I’ll name that book “Required Readings for the Extreme Masochist.” Subtitle: “The Machiavellian Workings of the Little Boss Brain.”

Yeah, I rather like the sound of that. Perhaps his idiocy can be used for something good after all!