The following is a letter I have written to the head of the UK section of the company I work for. For obvious reasons I have not included the name of the person the letter is addressed to or the name of the company.
I am not sure if I will find the courage to actually send it while I am still employed there.
WARNING! This does go on for a while!!!
I really don’t know where to start this as there is so much I feel I need to get off my chest, if for nothing else, just to keep my own sanity.
I have worked for the company for over 3 years, which I know is not a long time and I am not after some kind of service or loyalty award, although once you have read the points below I may be due one!
When I first started, I was extremely proud of being associated with “Company” and I enjoyed coming to work doing the best I could for my clients.
Prior to commencing my employment with the company as a “My Job Title” I had my reservations. I was an independent adviser for 4 years prior, during which time the company were avoided like the plague purely because of the incompetence of the processing centre. I convinced myself to accept the job hoping that the processing would run more smoothly for in house advisers. This, unfortunately, very quickly proved not to be the case and still has not improved. There have been times where, for a while it has run smoothly only to go back to the inconsistencies we continue to experience on a daily basis. I do not believe in trying to find people to blame but my point is this. The company can only ever be as good as the people they employ and the systems and processes they incorporate.
The frustrating part is that it does not have to be this way. I have experienced how effective processing and head office support can work when the right systems and processes are in place.
From an adviser perspective, once an application has been submitted, all contact takes place via an offshore call centre. But before we even get through to a real person we have to endure the most pointless, frustrating and time wasting journey answering questions asked by a machine, which by the way will have you repeat your answer should there be the slightest background noise!
Even more frustrating is the fact that once through to a real person the same questions are asked once again!! This is of course depending on the person on the other line being able to actually grasp the basics of the english language, which unfortunately is not always the case! I am pretty sure their side of the coin isn’t much brighter and I do not want to blame any of them as they have been put there and are doing what they are being told to do.
May I remind you that the telephone number we as advisers dial is the same number our customers dial, only to be presented with the same frustrating journey! I have yet to receive positive feedback from a satisfied customer on this! The number, in case you want to experience it for yourself is XXXXXXXX. I dare you to make the call in a place with some background noise!!
The role of the person on the other end is purely there to record the information we, or our customers give them and then pass it on to someone who can make a decision. This is another cause of frustration and disbelief. I simply can not understand why the company choose to pay all of these people a salary just to take a message and pass it on, instead of simply creating an avenue for advisers and customers to relay the information directly to the decision maker. This would, if nothing else, ensure that the information is correct when it gets to the right destination, which at the moment is a rarity.
The most frustrating part is the fact that no one seems willing to even accept that there is a problem with this setup. I have colleagues who have worked forthe company a lot longer than me that have told me that it has always been in this dysfunctional state. I have experienced being told prior to a regional conference specifically NOT to bring up this issue, the act of which would have consequences.
How are you ever going to be able to achieve your vision when the people who have the power to improve things just bury the heads in the sand and brush it off with a vague excuse? I can tell you from experience, that the journey described above does not create engaged, productive or motivated staff. It has the opposite effect, to the extent that good performers have left the organization as a result. It is also one of the biggest causes for complaints from customers.
I have actually sat down in my spare time and read your vision and I really buy into it. Reading it made me want to be part of such an organization. Unfortunately this is nowhere near. At this point I think it is steering further away from reaching that goal.
I think the reason is that the vision is being distorted and misinterpreted down the reporting line and from fear of the consequences and because of your status within the organisation, no one is prepared to air their view. You came to visit our branch a while back with the regional director and I am sure you were impressed. Was that because you saw reality? No. Far from it. When you arrived, everyone in the branch were on their best behaviour and on their toes to ensure that was perfect at all times. This should be the reality, I agree, but reality is somewhat different. Staff in the branches are put under so much pressure to squeeze as much out of every customer as possible and at the same time provide the best service possible. I firmly believe that if one provides excellent service, customers will come back for more without the need to constantly force other services and products down their throats. Having said that though, I do believe in looking for opportunities too as long as it’s for the right reasons. This is another part I have a problem with observing on a daily basis and this is fuelled by the pressure to sell. Most sellers are looking for opportunities to sell whatever product mostly just to hit a value target with no regard to whether that sale stays on the book or is subsequently cancelled. By saying this I am not referring to mis-selling or misguiding customers although this will be the result if people are pushed far enough. I am referring to the problem of focusing more on what brings value at the point of sale as opposed to build a proper relationship with any particular customer, build that relationship to the point where that customer would by default choose the company despite being able to get a better deal elsewhere. Build a relationship on trust and thereby creating a desire for the customer to make the company their first and only choice. Now, I appreciate that this does not satisfy figures on the board in the short term but if we look to the long term, what benefits could this strategy provide?
I have witnessed more unhappy and frightened people here than in any other place of work. The pressure is a part of it but a bigger and much more sinister part is the methods adopted by some of the people in charge at different levels. Methods that can only be described as bullying and borderline harassment. I hate to sound this dramatic but it is what I have witnessed on more than one occasion. For the record, I am not the only one who are of this opinion or the only one who have witnessed this. At this point I am not even sure if I will drum up the courage to send this to you out of fear that it will cost me, not only my current job, but any chance of getting a job with any other company for the foreseeable future.
I know that the result of the employee opinion survey shows very different results from the picture I have painted here. From a personal viewpoint, The employee opinion survey will never paint you a true picture until it is delivered in a format where one does not have to specify age group, sex, job role, and area.
My point here, which is the same point I have around mystery shopping and customer service calls is this: If you want the true picture, then let us comment freely or at least let us complete the survey without the categorization of role, area, age, sex etc. I appreciate that there may be a reason for it but from my perspective it does not fill me with confidence that the survey is anonymous and as a result I do not feel I can give honest feedback without fearing my view may suffer consequences.
Mystery shops and customer service calls in itself can be a great way of finding areas that need improving. However, the format it is currently in is nothing short of a farce! Firstly, most branches roughly know what the scenario they will be mystery shopped on is, which kind of defyes the whole objective. Secondly, the way it is measured is based on saying certain things, which to me as a whole can mean a wonderful customer experience provided it is being delivered sincerely. The way it has been drilled into people is border lining brainwashing to the point where it has become robotic, which to me does not equal customer service.
The customer service calls that are made to my customers is even more ridiculous. The score is based on the customer replying to 3 questions with a specific phrase! How can that ever measure a customer’s experience. To give you an example, I once had a service score of 25% because that customer did not say the 3 “magic” words. He did however, invite me for a drink as a way of thanking me as well as referring some of his friends to me and has since become a friend too. I prefer the latter experience as a measure of my service and whatever score I get now, means nothing to me.
I am at a point where I need to make a decision. I can stay, keep fighting and hope that things will change for the better or I can leave and search for another place closer to my values and beliefs.
I have wanted to write this for the past 18 months but felt it would be pointless and a waste of my time. The other dilemma was how would I get this delivered to you? I could simply email it or send it but that would mean you would be in a position to track me down and at this point I am not convinced that my views are welcome within this organisation. I am not specifically referring to you personally. My concerns are relating to the people at the first 2 – 3 levels above me and how they, should they read this, would ensure that my day within “The Company” would be numbered.
Why did I bother writing this in the first place? And why write it to you as opposed to The CEO or the Board.
The most suitable answer is that somehow I felt that you would at least look into some of the points raised and not just regarding is as an employee wasting your time. More importantly I wrote this because I am passionate about helping my clients, I am passionate about the people I work with and I want to believe that by changing a number of things the company really could be one of the most sought after companies to work for.
If you have read this far, I am truly grateful
One of your employees wanting positive change.