Circling Back:  Going the Extra Mile in Customer Service

Bobblehead DollIt is no secret; I am a doctoral candidate.  On Facebook, I advertised my dissertation to find participants to engage in my dissertation data collection.  My dissertation is all about the role of the trainer in call center training.  I am looking to answer some specific questions about what a trainer does, their role in training, and flush out details about the role of the call center trainer in establishing genetic memory.  My first ad on Facebook, believe it or not, received more direct respondents than my second or third attempts.  That the respondents accused me of being fake, a troll, and committing several bodily functions on their timelines bothered me greatly.

When mentioned to representatives from Facebook, who could see the comments and the original ad, the representatives reflected less care than I would have ever imagined.  Yet, Facebook claims to be “customer-centric,” “customer-driven,” and “customer-obsessed.”  LinkedIn, AT&T, Sprint/T-Mobile, Bank of America, Navy Federal Credit Union, and many other companies make similar claims and act similarly, where the professed policies are disconnected from reality, and the only person who suffers is oddly the customer.  Then, the agents representing these companies are then asked to “go the extra mile for the customer.”Pin by N D on Jokes | Dilbert comics, Work humor, Funny picture quotes

When going the extra mile was first addressed, leadership, training, business processes, and organizational communication all were aspects to the foundation to helping an agent “go the extra mile.”  More needs to be discussed on “going the extra mile” and delivering upon the promises made by leadership.  However, the discussion is useless unless followed swiftly by concerted action; thus, this article asks for and directly inspires action.

Compounded Leadership Failure

Let’s begin with reality and address the 300# gorilla.  To the leaders of companies, customers are listening, and they are not stupid!  Whether you believe this or not, your customers do, and they do not like what they see.  AT&T, LinkedIn, and Facebook regularly inundate me with the voice of the customer surveys, new products, performance surveys, surveys, surveys, surveys.  These are not the only companies demanding answers and resources from customers, but these companies are especially egregious at this practice.  Tell me, why does nothing ever change in customer approach, customer service, customer care, and the voice-of-the-customer always appears to fall on deaf ears?Colin Powell quote: Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you...

Leadership never collects qualitative and quantitative data and then uses this information to make change, drive visible customer affecting policy shifts, or even act like the customer is worthy of being listened to.  How do we, the customers know we are not being heard; the agents do not have the ability to affect change.  I called Xfinity/Comcast; I have an issue, I get nowhere with the agents, but I am still expected and offered multiple times the voice-of-the-customer survey to help improve customer relations.  I invest my time in completing the survey; I even indicate a return call to discuss the scores is acceptable, only later do I discover that the voice-of-the-customer data is never worked, customers are not called, and the company does not care.

Poor Leadership #inspirational #motivational #quotes | Bad leadership quotes, Leadership quotes ...If you are sending a survey out, you need to address the survey results.  Publicly with your agents, transparently with your shareholders and investors, and clearly and openly with your customers.  By refusing to do these things, the leadership failures in demanding customer resources to complete surveys are wasted, compounded, and the customer is listening!  Worse, the customer is sharing this information with other customers and is openly looking for options to replace you and your company!  By publicly claiming “customer-obsession,” “customer-centricity,” and “customer-first” propaganda (e.g., marketing promises), you are making a commitment.  Failure to honor that commitment delivers a “Used Car Sales” pitch, and lawyers and politicians become more trustworthy than you and your company.  Customers are tired of “Lemons” when paying for cherries; is this clear enough?

Who is your first customer?

To every person claiming the first customer is a service or product purchaser, you are WRONG!  Your first customer is your employees.  Yet, employee abuse remains central to employee churn.  Asking your employees to “go the extra mile” for an external customer and not seeing the business first go the extra mile for them is disheartening at best to your employees.

I am intimately familiar with a well-known company, its operations, and its customer commitment.  The company does an excellent job in employee relations, which leads to year-over-year success with external customers.  But the company has some deep-seated problems they are working on, and because they are honestly working on these issues, I am willing to give them anonymity for their efforts.  One of the most fundamental issues this company has is in product delivery; the operations in the warehouse prioritize outbound (customer shipping of products ordered) to the exclusion of quality.  The products are more important than the people, which is a growing pain for this company.Tiger Team

By forgetting that the first customer is the employees, this group churns at phenomenal rates compared to other business units.  Why?  Because of the insanity of being left out of customer service.  Company benefits, time-off, vacation policies, “swag,” free merchandise, etc., none of this compensates for irrational operations that fundamentally treat the employee poorly and in a confused manner.  If your company is “customer-focused,” then employees are top priority, and in making them top priority, they look after your external customers more efficiently, more expertly, and they will build a fatter bottom-line through “going the extra mile.”

When was the last time your employees were honestly engaged in voice-of-the-customer surveys and results?  When was the last time the employees knew they were the top priority in your business?  When was the last time operational policies and procedures were adjusted to remove confusion about employee worth and value?  Tell me, are your shareholders and investors treated better than your number one investor, your employees?  If so, your shareholders should be raking the current leadership over the coals for robbery and theft.  Reduced bottom lines because of employee treatment should be a significant issue of discussion by the shareholders and investors, for this is nothing short of robbery. You are compounding another leadership failure through employee abuse, which increases costs and lowers bottom-line performance, e.g., robbing the investor and shareholder because you have refused to provide your first customer simple customer recognition, let alone service.

Going the Extra Mile

Before a supervisor, team leader, director, or other leaders in your business organization asks for an employee to “go the extra mile,” rate that leader on this question, “Have they already walked two miles with the employee?”  If not, that person is asking for the impossible.  No extra efforts can or ought to be sought when leadership fails to first show and do what it takes to walk two miles with an employee.

Call Center BeansWant to know a secret?  When the leader first walks two miles with the employee, that leader never has to ask anyone to “go the extra mile,” EVER!  Your best leaders, your followers, are the people who, instead of looking forward first, make it a priority to look sideways.  These leaders are experts at lifting the talent needed to look forward to a higher level.  Looking sideways includes value-added training programs, professional paths to progression, recognizing and praising efforts honestly and frequently, delegating assignments and tasks, and being actively engaged in delivering “customer-centricity” to the employees.  As a supervisor, team lead, director, etc., your first customer is those who follow you; what have you done lately to prove customer obsession to them?

By the way, your first customer is listening, awake, and actively engaged in either growing or leaving, all based upon how you treat your first customer.  I suggest taking heed of them.?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

If you want to be part of my dissertation research, please reach out to me using the following email address: msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu.  Please help me help you and your company through value-added research.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the photos or images used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

If Everyone Cared – More Detestable VA Stories (Chapter 2)

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1For the last two weeks, I have been a little remiss in writing.  My cousin passed from diabetes, two of my grandkids got sick with COVID (they are recovering), and I was diagnosed with asthma.  The last two weeks have been a roller-coaster of ups and downs, so imagine my surprise as I went to catalog more of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports, Nickelback’s song, “If Everyone Cared,” was playing.  Pandora certainly appears to have a sense of humor and an innate sense of déjà vu.  I cannot think of a better title to proclaim the need for raising awareness and what is needed to fix the VA.  Until everyone is aware and the scab hiding the infection of the VA are ripped away to be exposed to the sunlight disinfectant, nothing will change, and taxpayers will continue to pay for the abuse of veterans who deserve so much more.  Thus, as we celebrate US Constitution Day, let us remember the veterans who have helped protect and defend the US Constitution and improve the government response!

The VA-OIG reports begin in Kansas City, Missouri, with a $335 Million Fraud Conspiracy, which included $615,000 in tax violations.

By pleading guilty today, Patrick Michael Dingle, 50, admitted that he conspired with Matthew C. McPherson, 45, of Olathe, Kansas, to fraudulently obtain contracts set aside by the federal government for award to small businesses owned and controlled by veterans, service-disabled veterans, and certified minorities.”VA 3

A sentencing hearing will determine if any prison time and what if any, restitution is required in this plea deal.  Frankly, the fact that the fraud existed from 2009-2018 is nothing short of a blatant and utter slap in the face for the taxpayer.  How many federal employees had to have seen the documents, failed to perform due diligence, refused to do their jobs, and were not named as co-conspirators or, at a minimum, facilitators of the crimes?  Is aiding and abetting a criminal operation not a charge that can be brought against the federal employees who empowered this fraud?  Thus, I demand all these people explain why and how an investigation can occur and not include the facilitators, those federal employees, who did not do their jobs!

Assistant US Attorney Paul S. Becker is prosecuting the case. The following agencies assisted in the investigation: the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General; the Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the US General Services Administration, Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General; the Army Criminal Investigation Command, Major Procurement Fraud Unit; the Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General; IRS-Criminal Investigation; the US Secret Service; the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Procurement Fraud; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; the Defense Contract Audit Agency – Operations Investigative Support (OIS); the US Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General; and the Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).VA 3

File the following under false imprisonment, and will someone please tell me why those employees involved are not in prison now!  A patient in the inpatient mental health unit and community living center at the Tuscaloosa VAMC in Alabama was falsely imprisoned and kept against their will for more than 2-years.  Was denied access to a patient advocate, which should be a red flag that something is disastrously wrong right there.  Plus, official mail to an elected official was improperly handled by staff to prevent elected officials from knowing about the veteran’s plight.

Here is what the VA-OIG investigation substantiated in their investigation:

    • Staff did not adequately assess the patient’s admission status as voluntary or involuntary and did not follow commitment requirements during the first two of the patient’s three Inpatient Mental Health Unit admissions.
    • Staff did not properly manage a letter from the patient that was intended for a public official.
    • Staff did not correctly identify a surrogate decision-maker and did not address ethical concerns regarding the appropriateness of the patient’s surrogate decision-maker.
    • Staff did not comply with requirements when the patient requested an against medical advice discharge.
    • staff at the facility denied a patient’s discharge requests and did not ensure the patient’s access to a patient advocate.
    • Staff failed to follow informed consent procedures.
    • Staff denied the patient’s discharge requests.
    • Staff did not conduct a sufficient or timely decision-making capacity evaluation and documented unsupported, conflicting decision-making capacity information in the patient’s electronic health record.VA 3

These are serious crimes, not bad administrative practices, felonious crimes.  Yet, the employees skate, the patient was held against their will, and nobody will be responsible for this disaster.  Where are the elected officials?  Where are those hired to scrutinize the government?  In this situation, any other medical organization would be facing lawyers armed with righteous indignation and seeing dollars signs in their dreams.  Yet, because this is the VA, the patient can be harmed, and no one will ever care, and that is a crime the elected officials are guilty of and need to be held to task for!

Moving to Biloxi, Mississippi, we found another VA employee who had sticky fingers and a long time to steal from the government (2009-2020).

Chad Paul Jacob of Saucier, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to stealing personal protective equipment, electronics, and medical equipment while working as the assistant chief of supply chain management for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi. From 2009 through December 2020, Jacob stole and resold VA property at local pawn stores and on his personal eBay account.”VA 3

For eleven years, they were working as the assistant chief of supply.  The employee had how many reporting employees and superiors have had to sit through how many records audits.  In all these eleven years, I cannot believe that nobody ever suspected problems.  Who did the thief learn how to steal from the government from?  How many employees churned, and did any of these employees churn because they tried to report irregularities, and the boss ensured they were disposed of to silence them?  The VA has been taken to several congressional hearings to eliminate the whistle-blower rather than fixing the problems at the VA.  Thus, it is not in any way, shape or form, out of line to be suspicious about employee churn and fraudulent actions taken by a supervisor to eradicate and protect their schemes!  Why are these questions never asked in the VA-OIG investigations where schemes are uncovered by ranking and supervisory personnel?

Remaining in the south and moving next door to Slidell, Lousiana, a doctor, has been indicted for illegally dispensing opioids in a health care fraud scheme.

Adrian Dexter Talbot of Slidell, Louisiana, was charged for his role in distributing Schedule II controlled substances, including oxycodone and morphine, outside the scope of professional practice and for maintaining his clinic to distribute controlled substances illegally. He was also charged with defrauding health care benefit programs of more than $5.1 million, given that the opioid prescriptions were filled using health insurance benefits.”VA 3

Remember, an indictment is not a finding of guilt, and the defendant remains innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of his peers.  There is a very compelling point made by our founding fathers that need to be repeated here and declared more often in American Society.

“… Should the People of America, once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while practicing iniquity and extravagance, and displays the charming pictures in the most captivating manner of candour, frankness, and sincerity.  At the same time, it is rioting in rapine and insolence; this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world.  Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passion unbridled by morality and religionOur Constitution (the US Constitution) was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – President John Adams

The drug war and the opioid crisis stem from the same problem, a lack of morality and religion.  The duplicity of showing candor, frankness, and sincerity, while at heart there is nothing but ravening appetites and the minds of wolves, is the problem.  Sure, drugs create a social and medical issue out of the unbridled appetites and passions.  The core is the lack of self-restraint from being disconnected to religion and morality and from social duty, responsibility, and accountability.  Thus, making people miserable and looking for a cure.Knowledge Check!

The case above expresses this point clearly; the doctors involved were filling an appetite.  As long as there is an appetite, there will be people willing to risk everything to fill the appetites of others; moral and social disconnection, and the US Constitution cannot govern these people except to their destruction!

Moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we find another series of indictments for more fraud, reflecting the same social disconnection.

Kingsley R. Chin of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the chief executive officer of SpineFrontier Inc., and Aditya Humad of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company’s chief financial officer, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, six counts of violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Chin and Humad allegedly bribed surgeons to use SpineFrontier’s products, and in turn, the company received millions of dollars in revenue from surgeries the surgeons performed.”VA 3

Traveling north to Bedford, Massachusetts, we find another dead veteran and culpability so thick it should be used as a board to apply corrective discipline for all parties involved!  From the report, we see the scope of the investigation for the VA-OIG:

Mr. Timothy White was a resident of the Bedford Veterans Quarters (BVQ), an independent living facility operated by Caritas Communities, Inc. (Caritas), in space leased to it through VA’s enhanced-use lease program. A month after Mr. White was reported missing, his body was found in the emergency exit stairwell of the building that houses the BVQ. This stairwell down the hall from his room was VA property and not leased to Caritas.”VA 3

The VA-OIG found the following as facts in the investigation:

    1. The VA police department’s failure to locate Mr. White resulted in part from the police and others at VA not considering the veteran an at-risk missing patient, which would have required a stairwell search.
    2. The Veterans Health Administration and the Office of Security and Law Enforcement lacked clear guidance regarding the obligations of VA police to search for nonpatients reported missing on VA property.
    3. VA police also did not discover Mr. White in the stairwell because of an improper order by the then-police chief to cease patrols of the building in which Mr. White was found.
    4. The OIG found that the VA police chief exceeded his authority as VA policy, and the lease required VA police to patrol VA property.
    5. Medical center staff mistakenly believed the emergency exit stairwells were not VA space; they did not clean them.
    6. The confusion among medical center leaders and staff regarding the lease scope and VA’s obligations stemmed from a lack of clear guidance from the Office of Asset and Enterprise Management.
    7. Routine police patrols and stairwell cleanings likely would have led to Mr. White being found earlier.

Angry Grizzly BearNow, as logical thinking adults, do you buy the load of excuses being sold here to pass off the blame for a dead veteran?  I know I am certainly NOT buying this load of bull!  Having worked and spoken in-depth to leaders of VA Police Departments, the excuses to not do stairwell checks and camera checks for missing patients are beyond inexcusable!  I know of a situation where a patient was lost on VA property.  Every police officer and staff member, even those on off-shifts, were called in, issued out in teams, and every square inch of the property was investigated until the patient was found.  Yet, somehow this patient was able to DIE unnoticed in a stairwell!  Are you kidding me?!?!?!

Regardless of whether this veteran died of malnourishment, dehydration, exposure, or lack of medication, he died horribly!  The veteran died at the hands of responsible parties, and those parties need to be held accountable for his untimely and atrocious death!  There is NO EXCUSE for this veteran to have died.  SHAME on the administration!  SHAME on the VA Police!  SHAME on the third-party contractor.  SHAME on the leaders of government who have allowed this abuse and refused to act!

Moving west to Chalfont, Pennsylvania, we find more stolen valor and theft of government benefits.

Richard Meleski of Chalfont, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $302,121 in restitution for stealing VA benefits by pretending to be a veteran who the enemy had captured during combat. In July 2020, Meleski pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud, two counts of mail fraud, one count of stolen valor, two counts of fraudulent military papers, as well as two counts of aiding and abetting straw purchases, and one count of making false statements in connection with receiving Social Security Administration disability benefits.”VA 3

While there are many more VA-OIG reports needing sunshine disinfectant, let us remember Mr. White, who has passed, and the feloniously falsely imprisoned unnamed veteran from today’s VA-OIG recap.  These two veterans especially deserve respect, dignity, and remembrance.  Their families and friends deserve praise and prayers.  America deserves answers, and federal employees need to be held accountable for failing to do the job they are paid tax dollars to perform!

I-Care© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.