On accountability & keeping promises

April 13, 2011


There’s way too little of it in our world today.

Those who provide goods and services don’t seem to feel any responsibility for keeping their word. Or for being honest.

Today’s consumer has to be more discerning than ever. We have to accept that many of the companies we do business with are not going to provide customer service that even approaches “good,” much less “excellent.”

And yet, I think it’s important that we hold them to high standards. Which can be an exercise in frustration.

Last year, Costco installed Hunter Douglas window coverings in our entire new home. It was a HUGE job and we paid them a lot of money. Less money than we would’ve paid other HD vendors. But still, lots of money.

We paid in full in advance. (Probably a mistake, but required.)

Their promised deadline passed. Then another. They had our money for months, and we had no window coverings for months. I became somewhat of a squeaky wheel.

Finally, they delivered. Quite late. And incomplete.

It wasn’t right. It was, in fact, infuriating. Despite my frustration or maybe because of it, we escalated it as high as we could go in the chain of command. And for our trouble, received a $300 Costco gift card.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I would have preferred to have had window coverings on time. The gift card didn’t change the fact that their customer service and communication were incredibly poor. It didn’t make me want to recommend them. Or use them for other big ticket items.

But it certainly made up for some of our frustration. They’re not going to want to hand out gift cards to all their customers, so I like to think it also served as an incentive to begin to clean up their act.

We held them accountable.

Last week, Comcast gave us the runaround. For days. Besides not fixing our cable, we had to listen to their call center reps give us a commercial on their wonderful 24-hour tech support. Right. Even as their tech support failed, we heard a promo every single time we called. Baaad marketing idea.

I protested the lack of response and the commercial, and took it up the chain of command.

Yesterday, they reduced our monthly rate for all services by 1/3–for an entire year. Again, I like to think that when executives look at the number of discounted rates they are giving to unhappy customers, the light bulb may go on and changes will be made.

We held them accountable.

When we are busy with our jobs and our lives, we often let these little things go. It’s stressful when those who provide goods and services don’t deliver on their promise. Sometimes, we just don’t have the energy to make the kind of noise that gets results.

This week, all hell broke lose on a blog I’ve been following for years. The blogger had solicited money and not followed through. More than once. And despite many questions, remained incommunicado.

Finally, after enough noise and threats to go to major media, the blogger posted a weak explanation.

Although many folks were outraged and suspicious (for good reason), far more defended this guy, going way beyond what logic and reason would dictate. It seemed to me that the guy made a promise, solicited funds for it and then not only didn’t follow through, but worse, didn’t communicate with donors. So the emotional reader defenses of his actions that followed came as quite a surprise.

Maybe we’re so accustomed to service providers not following through that we think it’s acceptable.

It isn’t.

Maybe we think we should be happy for whatever little we get, even if it wasn’t as contracted. I mean, I got my window coverings, in the end. And my cable got fixed.

We shouldn’t.

It takes time, guts, persistence and a strong stomach to handle the aggravation of getting what we paid for.

Of holding companies accountable for delivering as promised.

Of standing firm with call centers, customer service reps, supervisors and more.

And yet we must, if we want any standards at all.

I raise a glass to the squeaky wheels that hold people accountable. And encourage you to become one of them.

2 comments on “On accountability & keeping promises
  1. I think you’re absolutely right! If a company doesn’t follow through on its promises, we should stop patronizing that company. Hold the b**stards accountable. Stop giving them our business.

    I certainly hope that you’ll stop following the blog you mentioned, since it sounds as if you didn’t get the accountability that you wanted from the writer.

  2. Thanks, Gladys. I have no skin in the game w/ the blogger, so I am more of a curious bystander. To some extent it’s ‘buyer beware’ when dealing with anonymous figures online. But I do think at some point this will blow up and am interested to see how.

    Cable TV? another story. It’s funny how deregulation was sold to the public as ‘more competition is good’ but often we find that standards are lowered rather than raised. Yes, always buyer beware.

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