Editor’s Opinion

11126 editor
11126 editor


23 December 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, it's a great time to give thanks.

I have been amazed, as I have done my Christmas shopping, at the attitude and good temper of the shop assistants, particularly in malls, which can best be described as a zoo at this time of year. Without fail, they have taken time to help, gone the extra mile and made a potentially fraught situation enjoyable. It seems that it could be a thankless task, helping harried shoppers, who often have very little time or idea of what they want.

Teachers should also take a bow. Where they find their patience from is frankly beyond me. Much as I love my own little darlings, the thought of 30-odd voices and personalities, some of whom would rather be anywhere than the classroom, every day, would break the strongest of us. But there are the teachers; enthusiastic, dedicated and engaged right up until the final bell. Many of them even seemed genuinely sad to see the school year come to a close. We are extremely fortunate in New Zealand to have such a great school system.

Patience is most definitely a virtue, and when push comes to shove, is still one of the finest traits we humans can possess. It gives us the ability to see another's point of view, allow others to take their turn and keeps stress levels to a minimum. Next time you are in traffic, be the person who lets someone in, or take the time to acknowledge someone who offers you the same courtesy. It is so easy to feel that you don't have time, but in reality, a second or two is nothing in the grand scheme of things, and small acts of kindness are hugely appreciated.

As you head off on holiday, take a moment to remember that all the wait staff in cafes and restaurants, the people in the supermarkets, the doctors and nurses, rest home, police, firemen and ambulance staff are still hard at work. 

Small coastal towns will be bursting at the seams and often so is their infrastructure. If you have to wait a while, remember they are doing their best. Patience and appreciation costs nothing, and if you are on holiday, you actually do have the time to spend. Walk a mile in their shoes before you complain and grumble. There are very few people who won't be doing their absolutel best to help you out.To all the people who take the time to say thank you, or offer their opinion constructively and kindly; thank to you too.

Enjoy your Christmas and New Year. Drive safely.  Spend time with people who love and support you, and make the most of your break. Unless you are on call in a critical capacity, do your best to leave the office behind so that you can start 2015 refreshed and recharged.

At GrownUps, we really love to hear your suggestions. Your opinions are always taken into account – we do our best to action them where we can, and will continue to do so into 2015.

Thank you for being a valuable part of the GrownUps community. To all of you, thank you and Merry Christmas! 

17 December 2014

It's privegiving season at schools around the country. Facebook is brimming with photographs of slightly bashful, but secretly proud, children, accompanied by gushing captions from parents.

It is wonderful to see schools acknowledging excellence and achievement (instead of how it sometimes seems; that you can earn an award for just turning up to school). Prizegivings can be drawn out affairs however, full of platitude-laden speeches about children giving "110%" (don't get me started!)

However, at a prizegiving I attended last week, a former student was invited back to her erstwhile intermediate school to give a speech. What a fantastic idea. Not only was the young person in question a fantastic speaker, she was high achieving and set about explaining her method of goal setting, and goal achieving.

It was music to a parent's ears, the kind of speech we try to deliver ourselves, only to be groaned at by our offspring.

She talked about sacrifice, about how much was involved if you want to be the best in your chosen field. She talked about disappointment when things don't go your way, and how to deal with it. She talked about accountability and how the only person who can ever really change your circumstance is you. She talked about hard work, plenty of it.

The children listened hard. They ate it up. 

It was wonderful to hear that the 'youth of today', who are frequently grumbled about and dismissed for having everything handed to them, actually do care, and are prepared to put in the hard work to get what they want.

It got me thinking; as adults (and hopefully mentors and role models), are we practising what we preach? Do our children roll their eyes when we start talking about motivation and goal setting because they don't see us actually doing it?

Do they see us resting on our laurels or accepting our circumstances without working to improve them? Are we so busy being busy that we forget to continue to challenge ourselves?

Join the discussion and have your say here.

10 December 2014

Last week, I had a maddening situation with the call centre at PayPal, where it felt like the people I was dealing with had absolutely no interest in helping, in fact they couldn’t do anything more than read from the script in front of them, wherever they were in the world. There was no suggestion of doing anything outside the box to help resolve my issue, no apologies for the inconvenience, just the repetition of ‘it’s out policy ma’am…’

Rather irate (this issue has been ongoing for three months), I was chatting to a group of friends about it and the conversation turned slightly more philosophical; is the call centre and centralisation of companies and services detrimental to society?

In our infinite wisdom, we felt the answer was yes. In the past, if you bought an item, or had a problem with a service, you could return to the vendor and have a conversation with an actual person, eye to eye. Through conversation and negotiation, a resolution was usually reached.

Nowadays, you have to arrange for a courier to pick up your item, lodge a complaint on a website or wait for hours on hold, endlessly try to explain ‘the reason for your call’ to a piece of voice recognition software. It is frustrating and due to the nature of call centres, the people employed there have no capacity to adapt to individual needs, which means issues frequently go unresolved. This leaves customers unhappy and consequently spreading bad word of mouth about the companies concerned.

It seems that this system is specifically designed to be so user-unfriendly that eventually the customer just gives up and goes away, thus allowing the company to keep unnaturally high levels of customer satisfaction in their surveys, because the unhappy customers are all still waiting on hold!

It is not the fault of the people working there, and I’m sure they bear the brunt of customer’s frustration. They are provided with a script and a telephone and left to it. They have precious little understanding of the business, and no real emotional investment. At the end of their shift, they log off and go home. The people on the end of the line are faceless numbers and managers in the call centres have no additional authority to resolve problems. They are managers of staff, nothing more. In fact the call centres are often outsourced and nothing to do with the actual business you are trying to reach.

If you dealing with a person face to face, it is much harder to dismiss someone with a glib line and move on to the next customer.  Human nature is such that we are kinder and more compassionate in person.

This is not intended to be a whinge-fest, simply an observation that a disconnected and disinterested voice on the end of the telephone with no ability or authority to really assist you will rarely result in customer satisfaction.

In my case with PayPal, the people I spoke to on the line refused to give me their full names, quoting ‘policy.’ I was unable to call back and even speak to the same person for continuity purposes, (‘it’s not their policy’), instead I had to go through the authentication and ‘reason for my call’ routine each time. All calls were recorded for quality control and training purposes of course, so I started doing the same. It took 19.37 minutes on average to get to the point where they had enough information to actually discuss my issue, by which time I was already frustrated.

Once it had been established that I was not at fault for the issue (and boy, did I have to jump through hoops to prove it!), I was told I would have to issue the company with a subpoena to find out where their process went wrong. 

Is this good for business? I think not. We are still all just people, we buy and sell in good faith. But being human, things go wrong and we want them to be fixed. Is this so unreasonable?

Join the discussion and have your say here.