Friday, April 23, 2010

Policy customer service and robots

"To speak to a human, press one "

I wish automated phone systems had that option.  It's so nice to talk to a human sometimes.

I was at school yesterday, had 10 minutes before class started and wanted to print off the instructors notes before class. I got to the student services building walked towards the rows and rows of empty of computers and was stopped by the girl at the desk who wanted me to check in. So I did. She asked for my ID so I showed her my drivers license. She said she needed my School ID card. I said I didn't have it on me but knew my student ID number and password. I was then told I couldn't use the computers. I said I would be there for less than a minute and they were welcome to verify I was a active student on their student look up function on their computer. She said it was policy that I was not allowed to use a computer unless I had my little plastic card. It wasn't about my identity, nor my status as a student, or the fact that I had just paid 4,000$ in out of state tuition, or the rows and rows of unused computer equipment collecting dust. It was the piece of plastic and the policy. No customer service is needed when policy directs everything.

Irritating but whatever.  Then I was at my favorite pizza place, slow day, two employees sitting around doing nothing. I ordered a half and half pizza, half BBQ and half Hawaiian. I was told they couldn't do that. I've never had a half and half pizza request denied, and I assumed it was because of overlapping sauces so I told them it was fine if in the middle the sauce overlapped.  I've worked at a pizza place before and this request is as common as the sun coming up. Further, I've been to this exact location before and ordered the same thing. I was reminded almost before I finished my sentence that they couldn't do that. I was told it was policy and basically it was not up for negotiation. So I just said I'd take an all BBQ pizza then. I get to the car and it's half Hawaiian half BBQ but with all BBQ sauce. haha, more on this in the comment section.

This didn't happen the same day, but it's another example of the point I'm making.  I was headed to the temple with a friend to do some ordinance work. It was 6:30am July 1st. My friends temple recommend had expired 6.5 hours previously on the last day of June. He was told he could not enter inside. A policy was given as the reason.  Human assessment of the situation never was considered, or even entertained.  The policy dictated everything much in the same inhuman way a computer follows computer code. Worthiness is what determines someone going to the temple, but in this case it had nothing to do with it.

Computers can follow policy. Humans however have the added God given gifts of intellect and judgment and discernment.  I get the need for policy, but what I don't get is when policy is followed as if it were God.  My friend and I parted ways that day at the temple, he was little disappointed but amused at it all. What was important to us was not what was important to those following policy.  We cared about temple, and it's purpose, and less about the hour of the day or day of the month printed on a piece of paper. No harm was done.

It's unfortunate in my view anytime what matters is replaced by what doesn't. If there is an unusual situation, like above, it's my view a person should make an assessment and then make an informed decision. Otherwise we've become servants of our own policies.

I understand the need for policy. In my training with air traffic control should policy be ignored and procedures made irrelevant the sky would be a disaster. They are helpful, but only to a point. I think life becomes robotic, and lifeless and very unfortunate when policy replaces simple human to human communication and service. When policy replaces decision power, a robot is what you end up with.


  1. You are so right Tay! Love this post! You are an extremely good writer by the way. I'm proud of you and I get a little teary eyed when I look at the picture of you and Kels on her profile page. Love you two and hope you are both doing well.

  2. Love you too Melind!! Hope you are also doing well.

    The story gets better, after discovering my pizza had kinda sorta a weird combo on it I looked for the number to call them back. It had a phone number on the little sticker/receipt on the box. I called the phone number and it was some random girl. By now this is getting funny, so I went and asked the pizza place employee about it and he said when it's a carry out pizza they just put a random number on the receipt. Somehow I don't think that is company policy also either. But we'll give the employee the benefit of the doubt.

    Oddly today a policy was to my benefit. At Jiffy Lube the little window sticker I got telling me when my next oil change was told me a mileage that was LOWER than my current mileage. That made no sense. And it was clear my car had not been vacuumed despite the check mark next to "vacuumed out car" printed on my full service receipt. I'm not proud to say how dirty my car floor is but it was very clear it had not been vacuumed. Made me wonder if they also forgot to change my oil. I called the manager and left a message saying "hey this and this happened and thought you should know so it doesn't happen to other customers, and that I was in no way upset, just wanted to let him know" I was way cool about it, because I really didn't care. I got a call back from the manager a few minutes later and it's Jiffy Lube's policy for the customer to receive good service. So he without me asking offered a free oil change next time I come in. I love it when I get to deal with an actual person, who can assess a situation, make choices and still can use policy when it's appropriate.

  3. Hawaiian toppings with BBQ sauce isn't terrible but it's better with red sauce.

  4. HONEY!!! I love it all :)
    I laughed when you said "makes me wonder if they forgot to change the oil!" haha.
    I just love you.

    "To speak to a 466, wait for 6 more menu options, press 3, wait on hold with terrible elevator music for 3-75 minutes, get transferred to another number, finally to be told they can't help you!"

    LIfe is great isn't it!