As a subject matter expert on customer service, as a professional customer service provider, and as a concerned American, I have to state for the record, the government’s abuse of the taxpaying customer is beyond atrocious, ridiculous, and craven! I am sick to death of being treated like cat vomit; when I seek customer support from the government, I pay such incredible sums to fund. Worse, I am fed up with the bureaucratic mindset that places the customer in the wrong, the customer as a pain, and the customer as a nuisance to be endured instead of assisted professionally.
My local Post Office here in Phoenix was visited yesterday (03 March 2021). The Post Office does not deliver packages to the apartment complex we live in, so the standard procedure is for the USPS delivery person (mailman) to place a card notifying the customer of a package on a 10-day hold in the customer’s mailbox. Since we moved in, we have not gotten these indicators, and Monday, my wife was notified a package she needs was returned by USPS. It was delivered Monday to the Post Office and returned to sender as “customer refused delivery” the same day.
I went to the Post Office seeking answers. The counter-working postal representative was the epitome of rude, obnoxious, and downright unfriendly. It took more than an hour for a supervisor to arrive, and upon discussing the problem, I was told, “Lots of your neighbors have been complaining about this issue.” Are you kidding me?!?!?! You have two 500+ Apartment complexes across the street from each other, multiple people from both complexes are complaining about package delivery failures, and with a smile, you can tell me this is a known issue.
Ask yourself the following question, if you had upwards of 100 customers complaining about your work, how long would you remain employed? Frankly, I am still stunned 24+ hours after the interaction with this supervisor. My visit was the sixth time I had been to the Post Office complaining about not getting package notifications and having trouble with packages sitting around the post office taking up space. One of these visits included speaking to the Post Office’s head, general, whatever, the top person in charge of a local post office is titled. Still, the employee has maintained their job, kept the same route, and the customers continue to be abused.
After I wrote a formal complaint, I was assured that action would be taken, and the employee talked to about this oversight in their duties. Seriously, that was exactly what the supervisor said, “the employee will be talked to.” I understand the human resources processes, understand and have designed human resource processes, and possess a Doctor of Psychology title specializing in industrial and organizational psychology. But, I do not know how 100+ complaints can arrive at the post office weekly, and the same mailman is only on their verbal reprimand for failure to perform their duties. We have been complaining about this issue for a year now, and in speaking with several neighbors, they have been complaining for longer than a year about this failure. I have some doubts that this issue will be resolved, ever!
But hey, the Post Office is only one of the government agencies exhibiting a race to the bottom where customer abuse and customer disservice are concerned. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a state-run agency, is always in this race, and they take hostile customer service to new heights, or depths, depending upon how you look at their performance. The last visit to the DMV ended with screaming for several minutes in my car before possessing the proper mindset to drive away safely. The DMV is comparable to a dentist drilling before anesthesia starts and doing a poor job on an infected tooth; you just know you will have a bad day when a visit to the DMV is scheduled!
Yet, in discussing the race to the bottom, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is also a constant competitor in asinine customer service practices, customer abuse, and inept inertia. I do not think the VA could even get bureaucratic inertia correct if someone had not taught them how. The Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) investigated a surgical supply program for abuses and found:
“VA controls were not sufficient to ensure VA medical facility staff accurately reviewed, verified, or certified distribution fee invoices for the program. VA also did not ensure staff at medical facilities accurately established and applied the on-site representative rates and paid fees based on annual facility purchases. The pricing schedule establishes fee rates for on-site representatives based on annual facility purchase amounts.”
The amount of money involved is staggering ($4.6 Billion). The fact that the VA cannot correctly oversee a supply program, check invoices, monitor stock levels, and pay invoices properly does not bode well for integrity in customer service.
The VA is to be congratulated, the colonoscope, which is used on multiple patients for a colonoscopy, is being cleaned properly and to standard, which means that infections from one patient are less likely to occur in another patient transferred from the colonoscope. However, the training program, certification program, and training documentation remain under considerable scrutiny for continual failure, as discovered by a VA-OIG investigation of 10 different clinics! Training, certification of training, and documenting and tracking training are internal customer service actions that the entire VA continues to fail. Whoever is in charge of adult education and training at the VA is not performing their jobs, and this is witnessed every couple of weeks in the VA-OIG investigation results across the entire VA. Designed incompetence leading to customer service failures, absolutely ridiculous!
The VA-OIG conducted a lengthy investigation at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Chicago VA Regional Benefits office in Illinois.
“The OIG found claims processors did not properly correct administrative errors in 88 percent of cases reviewed. Errors resulted in improper underpayments of about $59,100 to six veterans, improper overpayments of $18,900 to two veterans, and $5,900 in debts VA had inappropriately collected from eight veterans through January 2020.”
Revisiting the Post Office example above, if you had an 88% error rate in your job, how long would you expect to keep your job? Training and certification of claims processing personnel remains a failure of internal customer service and is mentioned in every VBA investigation by the VA-OIG. As a point of fact, the failures of training and training certification were recently cited as a significant deficiency, where in 2018, no certification and training occurred due to internal technical problems with the intranet. Yet, even with all this evidence that training is failing, certification is not occurring, and claims processors continue to abuse veterans through clerical, system, procedural, and process errors on claims, they maintain their positions. Cited in this latest VBA investigation was the claims processors’ continual failure to communicate with the veteran.
Consider the following analogy. A 100% disabled veteran gets paid once a month and budgets those monies very carefully to last the entire month. A claims decision is made, and without any communication for why, the amount the veteran is expecting to live is cut in half. The veteran is then responsible for wading through the various call centers to find why, how the decisions were made, and what to do, which takes time, lots, and lots of time on the phone. While bills go unpaid, food goes unpurchased, financial difficulties mount, and correcting the situation takes more time. Sure, the VA will pay back pay, but that is never sufficient to cover all the accruing costs and losses experienced.
Hostile customer service by the government is the most inexcusable example of customer disservice imaginable. Why; because there is no competitor to move your business. There are no pathways for holding customer service representatives accountable when even talking to a supervisor is not worth the time and effort. I spent four hours on the phone chasing a claims processing error; at one point, I finally got so mad I demanded a supervisor. I waited on hold for just under 120-minutes for the supervisor, who said had I worked better with the agent, I would not have had to wait, and the problem could have been resolved, as their opening statement!
By this time, I had worked with four separate agents who were confused or refused the call by hanging up. I had been sworn at, I had been told I was a liar, and I was told my office could not handle your request. Each call required anywhere between 30 and 50 minutes of hold time waiting for an agent. As the supervisor reviewed the problem, they discovered that their agents could not have handled the situation, and a specialist was required. But, I never got an apology from the supervisor for the waste of my time, the issues experienced with previous agents, nor the loss of my time and resources it took to handle the problem.
Government employees beware; how you treat customers is a problem, and you need to be held to task for your insolence, depravity, ineptitude, inertia, and uncaring attitudes! When discussing the BS of government, the customer service issue is the most egregious. I will call you out publicly every time you abuse a customer. I am done being abused!
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
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