Monday, November 16, 2009

Wrangling with Bureaucracy

I'm dealing with a bureaucratic snafu right now.

It was not necessarily anyone's fault in the first place, so I'm not that upset about it. No one's perfect -- a paperwork mistake was made, which is a) understandable and b) something I've done in the past and will do again in the future, so I'd be a huge hypocrite for ranting and raving about it.

Which is why I won't rant and rave about it.

Where frustration reaches a boiling point, however, is in the response, or lack thereof. Like most any reasonable person who can understand the initial error, the next reasonable step I'd like to see is someone e-mailing or calling to say, "Hey, we're sorry, but here's what we're doing to fix it," or even just to acknowledge that it's being worked on.

But that's where the bureaucracy thing steps in and gets in the way. The trouble is, I can't seem to get even a single e-mail or phone call returned, despite earnest entreaties that indicate that all I'm looking to do is get the warm-and-fuzzy that something's going on (I thought that last point was worth mentioning because if I were on the other end of someone screaming or otherwise being rude, I might not return a call, either).

I don't think there's anything surprising, or even original, in my description of bureaucratic wranglings, but if there's anyone reading from the private sector, esp. someone doing something entrepreneurial where he/she has a strong personal stake in the success of the venture, there's something worth keeping in mind -- people are generally reasonable and can forgive minor mistakes. However, easily forgiveable becomes increasingly intolerable anytime you IGNORE someone, whether out of spite, indifference, or a natural tendency not to want to bear bad news.

So don't go that route! The two minutes it takes to put a real, live voice on the line that says, calmly and reassuringly, "Hey, we're working on it," might be all it takes to keep a customer happy and loyal.

Then again, if you're a large, public sector bureaucracy, that was never a concern in the first place...


kad barma said...

I recently tried to get a medical bill explained. (The invoice arrived and the complete and total description next to the very large amount showing to be owed was "BILL"). I called twice, politely, and left a message where the voicemail messages all told me I needed to leave a message. The third time the billing clerk answered and sounded very put out that I would keep calling, because she had put the explanation in the mail just that morning.

Seriously, on the phone, she asked me why I wasn't satisfied the first time that she had put it in the mail.

"Um, because you neglected to let me know you had done it?"

Bureaucracy can be amazing sometimes.

The New Englander said...

That's definitely another great example...and the nanosecond you guys hung up, I'm sure she had a nice vent about you to whoever sat next to her..[I just can't stand rude people! This guy just called, even though I had already put the letter in the mail!]

All the while, of course, never mind that a) you couldn't have known that, and b) customer service is her ENTIRE JOB!

Your situation speaks to my point about reasonable people and what they expect. A quick returned phone call as a heads-up that something was in the mail was all you would've needed not to call again.