Friday, May 23, 2014

Something Wicked

Photo by Ambro
There is a disturbing trend that I've noticed in our culture. Husband has noticed it too. It isn't the rising cost of gasoline or groceries, although that is also concerning, but the seemingly decreasing ability of our younger people to do simple troubleshooting and follow through.

I'm sure everyone has encountered this problem in the now popular centralized customer service centers. Back in the day, when customer service was local, it seemed like our problems were taken, well, seriously. If you had a problem with your refrigerator, you called the local repair company and you spoke with Irene. She would schedule an appointment, say Thursday morning at 10 AM, when Ernest would come to fix the refrigerator. Thursday afternoon Irene would give you a call to make sure everything was working alright. Later that week you'd run into Irene, or Ernest, at the grocery store, or church, or the hardware store. Now days, companies are BIGGER and in an effort to consolidate departments and save money they have centralized their customer service departments. Now, if you have a problem with your refrigerator you call the repair company at 800-and-more-numbers, and you talk to Darshwana, who barely speaks English, she makes an appointment to have a repair man come to take a look at your refrigerator on Thursday between 10 AM and 4 PM. Suddenly, Darshwana has a degree from Harvard Law and she recites the disclaimer where you are warned to be home because he won't wait, there will be a $75 service call fee whether or not it can be fixed. Further, you, the customer, accept all responsibility for payment, parts, and if it is determined that YOU are the reason the refrigerator is broken then you will pay another fee. The repairman may, or may not show up, Darshwana never calls back to make sure he got there, and unless you live in Mumbai, the odds are you'll not run into Darshwana at the grocery, church or hardware store. There is no incentive for her to care.

Husband and I have different views on this problem which he witnesses everyday at his work. He believes it's due to a disposable culture we've built. In the old days if something broke, you figured out what was wrong with it and you fixed it. Today, something breaks, you throw it out and get a new one. Even your big-ticket items like refrigerators and cars seem to be disposable. Perhaps, he'll muse, that it has something to do with our culture being so closely tied to technology. Something's not working right? Control-Alt-Delete. Undo. Reset. There's no investigation, no logical troubleshooting, no process of elimination until you come to a possible solution.

My view is that it's a cancer spreading in our education system and PC world. After all, even our President doesn't believe you can do that, or build that, on your own. Our schools don't teach critical thinking. Instead, they teach what to think rather than how to think. Ask any high school senior what a syllogism is and he won't know. Do they teach proofs in mathematics anymore? And why should our youth care about logical thinking, or troubleshooting? Why will it matter? There's no reward for trying or succeeding and they know this because they've played countless games for fun and not for competition or excellence. Everyone gets a trophy after all. It's wicked in the evil sense.

Hopefully, Little Man will understand that we expect him to be excellent even though his classmates may accept status quo. Hopefully, he'll understand why we'll keep insisting he try and then try harder and tell him that we know he can do whatever he sets his mind to do; he simply needs to set his mind to doing everything. Hopefully, Little Man will keep score and aim to win. And even if everyone gets a trophy, hopefully he'll play to earn it.

What are some of your experiences with customer service/troubleshooting/follow through stories?

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