The problem of being asked questions that no one wants an answer to

Last week, I received an email from two separate sources at the school where I teach. The first one was informing me that I would be charged for parking, and it would be coming out of my bi-weekly pay. It also stated to inform them if I was no longer working on campus, as that didn’t require a charge for parking. The same day, I received an email from another entity asking me pretty much the same thing.

So, I responded to both of them at separate times, indicating that I was teaching ON campus, BUT I didn’t utilize their parking because I worked down the street from school, which meant that I was walking there every day and haven’t used parking since I started working there years ago. In other words, each year they’ve been charging me for parking that I don’t actually use. And never will.

Their response: None. Last week, I was charged for parking.

Does anyone else find this a little annoying?

This falls into what I like to call false communication, meaning that someone addresses you with a conversation but isn’t really interested in the response. What was really going on here was that the administrators of my school were informing me that they were going to be charging me for parking, and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that they were going to do it regardless of what I said or did.

This is one of the problems a lot of businesses have. A great example of this was the debacle that Netflix went through a few years ago when they tried to raise their prices but did it as if they were offering a “service”. The service they were offering was one that no one wanted, so when people responded that this was a bad idea, they went ahead and did it any way. So, the result was that a lot of people left Netflix and never came back. No amount of cajoling or explaining “this is what we meant to say or do” made a difference. Because they lost their customers by basically telling them one thing, being adamant about it, and then going ahead and doing regardless of the feedback from customers.

And that’s the problem right there. When you ask for feedback from customers, you acctually need to do something about responding to it. If you say, I want to hear from people about our services, don’t be surprised when they respond with negative information. If your goal is to get only good responses, you’re basically wasting the opportunity of asking for information in the first place.

I’ve worked at a few places that have this faulty philosophy where they basically only want to put forth a positive image, so they suppress anything that sounds negative. An example is a human resources department I worked for that used to constantly say “Our company is the number one company in our area and people want to work here.” They say this even though their turn-over is massive, and they basically can’t hire people to remain even in the industry in which they are a pominent player. What has happened is that they kept telling this lie to themselves to the point of where actual employees used to joke with each other by insulting the company and stating “Yeah, this is the place where employees really want to work.” When your boast becomes a sarcastic retort, you’re obviously doing something wrong.

I once worked for a company that kept being hit by national scores on bad customer service. Therefore, management decided that it would educate staff on customer service so they could raise these scores. As I listened to executives explain how they would begin training the staff in customer service, the one thought going through my mind was “you know, if the customer service of the staff teaching customer service is atrocious, how do you expect to raise those scores?” And that was a huge concern. I’d listen to one supervisor talk about how staff was going to work hard to increase those customer service scores, and I’d look around the room at people who weren’t happy to be there in the meeting in the first place. And you’d wonder, do they even realize there’s a problem much bigger than customer service ratings on forms from people outside the organization?

And that’s the other problem. As long as people are short sighted enough to not realize the problems are inherent within the system itself, they’re never going to solve the problem.

I go back to my school and think, if they only knew that their lack of communication is hurting them, they might actually do something about improving it. But even if I said something, they’d most likely see me as an outlier and continue doing what they do, because up until now, nothing has caused them to think they’re doing anything wrong. Until people are affected and their illusions of security are threatened, they have no reason to make changes.

And thus, we get charged for parking even when we don’t need…or want…it.

duaneThe problem of being asked questions that no one wants an answer to

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