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FALL 2020

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Distributor's Link Magazine Fall 2020 / Vol 43 No 4


130 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK JIM TRUESDELL REMOTE WORKERS - THE CUSTOMER’S PERSPECTIVE from page 52 There is absolutely no way to get to a representative immediately if a matter is urgent. When and if there is a call back a couple of days later it begins with the representative apologizing for the tardy response by explaining “We have been having some problems with our phone service.” I would submit that if your phone service is unreliable then you need to get people back into the office to pick up the phone! I recently called a service company to initiate a new business opportunity. They were all working remotely so I left a voice mail message. Four days later a manager called me with that same old tale of telephone troubles. In discussion with him I learned that he had started his job in February and that the office had closed and gone to all remote in March and was still battened down here in July. He had not been into the office since then. The week prior I had sought information on a quote on another matter from another company and was getting no response. When I finally got to senior management the excuse was again problems with the electronic communication system. Government offices, too, seem to have checked out and require long waits for assistance, or the ever popular “due to the current situation we are asking you to find solutions to your problem on our website.” Where is management? Who is reviewing the phone logs and activity records of these workers? There are some people who are truly self-motivated. There are some companies who are concerned about meeting customer needs who are actively following up on things. But there are too many people, workers and managers, who are viewing this whole thing as a pleasant sabbatical from work. Too often workers who are not keeping on top of things (or companies who are not taking care of business) take pride in the fact that they are doing their part by staying home--- and that those who are still providing needed services by staying in their workplaces are somehow not acting ethically and failing to “protect” everyone else. This is despite the fact that companies who are remaining open are dealing with necessary safety protocols that are constantly shifting. The other side of this is that there are heroic customer service people who are stretched thin. Because of staff cuts and because of others who are not carrying their share during this crisis, they are pushed to the limit. These over-extended customer service workers take the brunt of complaints by frustrated customers who are frantically seeking goods or services and who are not getting the response they need. What will be the result of this pandemic experience if a substantial percentage of our workforce loses the work ethic that makes this country different from some of the floundering economies in the third world? This has little to do with the rightness or wrongness of protecting against spread of the virus. Working remotely is a viable option, but only if people are indeed committed to put in the effort and attention required. Even before the pandemic there was evidence to the effect that remote work is not all it is cracked up to be for the general work force (as opposed to the commissioned sales person or profit driven entrepreneur or independent contractor). Consider the experience of Yahoo, where CEO Marissa Mayer pulled back from her company’s already established Timework program, citing the need for the interactions and experiences that she felt were only possible in the company offices. This followed management reviews that reportedly revealed numbers of employees were just not logging in to the company network. I suspect that throughout our cloistered work force today such things are happening in large numbers--- -and the customers are suffering! It is too easy for a less than motivated employee who is not surrounded by his or her peers, and who is not motivated by a supportive company culture, to become disconnected from projects. These people do not sense the urgency of taking care of customers, and they lose the passion for excellence that a dedicated group of co-workers and a skilled manager in daily contact can provide. The experience of the past six months has no doubt revealed where remote work is effective and who is capable of carrying it out. We must not be blinded by euphoria for what we feel is the inevitable wave of the future! Many people may like avoiding the office and being master of their daily activities without a supervisor looking over their shoulder. Not everyone, however, has the self discipline to do this. Not everyone has the proper work environment at home. Some people can only reach their peak effectiveness when working as part of a face to face on-site team. In the end, the verdict will be delivered by a company’s customers. As companies transition out of their pandemic “bunker” mentality they need to honestly assess whether they have upheld their responsibility to the customer - the one who makes it all possible! JIM TRUESDELL


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