Service of Did You Get the Message?

March 7th, 2013

Categories: Automobiles, Communications, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Technology, Travel

Megaphone

With all the technology at our fingertips, I wonder how well we have learned to effectively communicate, absorb and act on information, especially in giant organizations and companies.

Oh what a tangled web we weave….

TenTripTktI buy a 10-trip web ticket on the Internet—have been doing so for years.  When I handed mine to the conductor, she said, “It’s expired.” I said, “I just got it in the mail!” She pointed to a date on the ticket which must have been the date the ticket was processed. She took it as the date the ticket expires. I explained the situation and convincingly as she didn’t make me pay, but the confrontation was heated and I didn’t like all the fuss.

The next conductor punched my ticket without a word so I asked him what the deal was and he said that scads of tickets were mailed with the distribution rather than the expiration date and not to worry about it—the conductors all received a directive about the glitch.

ConductorPunchingTktThe ticket-collecting conductor for my third ride on the web ticket had not read the directive as I had to again explain the situation, with pairs of rider’s eyes staring at me suspiciously from behind Kindles and newspapers as I argued for my cause.

So it got me to ponder how, when you run something as big as Metro-North and there’s a mistake like this one, a company gets out the word effectively.

Metro-North has the email addresses of all the web ticket buyers. Why not send a copy of the directive to carry in our wallets at minimal cost in time and none in out of pocket.

Sticker shock

CarRegisinWindowI thought of this when a friend told me about the letter she received from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. It explained that the department “has identified a defect in the registration documents supplied by our vendor that has prevented the printing of most registrations and window stickers that were ordered starting January 1.”

The letter went on to say that her registration is processed and everything is in order and if kept in the vehicle, the letter should serve as proof should she need to show it to law enforcement officials. Further, all police agencies and courts were notified.

Since then, she got the sticker. In the interim, this friend, who lives in Westchester, had received no summons for an expired registration.

The police and traffic staff in NYC have an easier time checking registration dates on parked cars in city streets to fulfill their ticket quota and I wonder: Did they all get and retain the message? Recipients of the letter wouldn’t put it in their car windows because both name and address are clearly typed in a bigger font than the body of the letter. My parents, parked on a city street, once got a ticket for being one day overdue.

Drug test

PharmacyI renewed a prescription on the phone via press one press two, punch in your Rx number, for an ordinary drug from a store that asks you for the date and time you expect to pick up your order. When I got there an hour or two after the time I’d noted, the pharmacy attendant said that the meds were on back order and asked if I could return the next day. The next day I got a call to tell me my prescription was waiting for me.

To save me a fruitless trip, shouldn’t they have also called to tell me when it wasn’t?

Are my expectations too high? Do you have examples where someone didn’t get the message and instances of a company or organization communicating them flawlessly, where everyone involved heard and remembered?

ShorttallBasketballPlayers

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10 Responses to “Service of Did You Get the Message?”

  1. Kathleen Said:

    I had a similar experience on MetroNorth, but I was at fault.

    I never realized there was an expiration date on the 10-trip ticket and I had one for a L-O-N-G time. The first conductor noted it had expired and so I had to pay. I thought I’d try to use it again and the second conductor never looked at the date (guess I really was stealing a ride!)

    So it comes down to the individual working at their job; some are conscientious and others not.

    On a similar but rather unrelated topic: yesterday we went to a lecture at the wonderful Naples Library on “Monument Men: Nazi Plunder.” There were some 350 army personnel, many older than the average soldier in WWII whose mission it was to protect the treasures of Europe during the war, i.e., art work, statues, fountains, churches, etc. But there was a directrive from the absolute top of the command to all army personnel not to destroy any art treasures under pain of reprisal. It was emphatically pronounced and soldiers followed these orders. Here is a case of the message getting out and being followed. But it must come from the tippy-top and there must be consequences if one does not follow.
    That’s all folks!

  2. David Reich Said:

    Unfortunately, as you ask in your closing paragraph, your expectations are too high.

    It’s a shame, but in this world of bigness and automation and anonymity, things like reading, following instructions — in fact, the whole communication process — seems to have fallen to the wayside. Today, it seems to be more about speed and “efficiency” than about real communication and the desired results of that communication.

    Perhaps had the Metro-North memo been sent via Twitter, Facebook or as a text message, it might have been seen and read… perhaps.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kathleen,

    Your tale of the soldiers and art reminded me of seeing Leonardo’s Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan when I was a child. I remember the guide telling us that someone had cut a door into the painting but didn’t recall who or why but the door fact obviously made an impression on me.

    I just read on Wikipedia that when this happened in the 17th century, the painting was almost invisible because most of it had flaked off. I read on another website that later, Napoleon’s troops used that wall for target practice.

    I’m glad the art was saved however I wonder what it says about us being so careful about art and not so much about people–our enemies and collateral damage.

    As for your railroad ticket, had you tried to return the ticket to get money back for unused rides–providing you were within the time limit–Metro-North would have charged you $10 for handling. I think that policy is terrible and I’m glad you got a free ride.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    I live in a Pollyanna world, yet with a few simple measures–as you point out texts, Tweets and Facebook entries but emails or robo calls to customers as well–the organizations could close the communications gaps by yards and yards.

    They aren’t motivated to do so. At the same time, taking Metro-North as an example, they don’t blink when increasing the cost of a ride. Were this Pollyanna in charge, I’d make it a priority to think of inexpensive ways for riders to think that they are getting their money’s worth. A good attitude goes a long way in unruffling disgruntled feathers.

  5. GP Said:

    Don’t get me started. There is no courtesy, no customer service, and no accountability any more. No wonder US businesses have such a bad rep. All they care about is bottom line. Theirs.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    GP,

    I agree with you–there’s little balance to the gimme gimme approach.

    I’ll go so far as to share this anecdotal observation based on the many small business owners I follow, work with and support: You usually get better service and product from a small business that’s flexible and set up to implement changes quickly. At one point, these businesses were in favor and frequently used by large ones. Not so much these days. It’s cyclical. I bet big business will rediscover the small fry again.

  7. Scott Ossian Said:

    I fear the problem is much bigger than we suspect and probably without viable solution.

    Education must return to being disciplined and the rewards and disappointments as its consequence must be distributed by merit, not by quota. That is not going to happen in the foreseeable future, at least in the United States.

    If neither a service provider nor a consumer is able either to produce or to understand clearly written instruction, no computer, no matter how many electronic gadgets we have, can do the job for them.

    To the contrary, one can only conclude, from the evidence that you provide in your post and that is everywhere else around us, that the destiny of Western Civilization will be the enslavement of an increasingly ignorant mass of humanity by increasingly sophisticated self-perpetuating machines, not the other way around.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Scott,

    I have more hope for us than you describe. Much of what’s missing is common sense. That and a dash of KISS [keep it simple stupid].

    In addition to staff, keep informed the person who gains or loses and many will of these people will make it their business to understand.

    Were consumers brought into the loop in the Metro-North ticket glitch instance–and the railroad has web ticket rider’s email addresses–it would be simple for riders to show something simple to the conductor. Were customers considered in the drug store case, informed that the drug was not available, this customer wouldn’t be annoyed. The NY State Dept. of Motor Vehicles had begun to think of the car owner, partially addressing a potential gap on the side of law enforcement. That was a good sign.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Expect little, and one usually gets more.

    Try as any company may, there are always careless employees, and the larger the organization, the more lemons.

    Confrontational people get more, since bullies don’t like challenges. By the same token, treating people with respect also works wonders. The customer is always right attitude stinks and ensuing poor results are richly deserved.

    For what it’s worth, I find expectations are a waste of time. Knowing what one wants along with the use of bargaining power works wonders. When disappointed, try another approach. At the very least, it keeps the brain alive, and at most, may promise success.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Disappointment is stressful so in that regard your advice to have no expectations is sound.

    However when I pay $hundreds for a railroad ticket, I expect to be spoken to not like a thief but a customer. Expectation? Yes. Guess I got a few of the lemons on Metro-North although most of the conductors are darling.

    I don’t like to be put in a position to defend myself when I have done nothing wrong. While the customer is NOT always right, the first approach by anyone in a service job should be gently inquisitive, not accusatory. Any employee who doesn’t act this way should be fired. In this economy, there’s a line of others who would welcome these jobs.

    Speaking of brains, I wish that more of them in corporations and organizations would address some of these issues so that the customers could apply their intelligence to what they need to do to keep afloat.

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