I would like to propose organisations put people first when it comes to their priorities.
Organisations may say they already do but based on my observations, they aren’t.
Two (2) banks asked me one day to update my business’s account information. They gave me a pile of forms for my business accounts’ signatories to fill up. On top of that they required board resolutions and corporate secretary certificates that formally authorise the signatories as representatives of the business.
I told the two banks that I submitted forms with the same information when we first opened the accounts few years before. I also said there were no changes in the board resolutions and corporate secretary certificates from ones we gave already. I complained that filling up the numerous forms and having them signed by the account-holders would be a time-consuming inconvenience.
The staff from each of the two banks shrugged off my arguments and said it was bank policy; my complaints meant nothing.
Both banks had mission statements that placed high importance on their customers. But after going through the tedious experience of filling up forms with information that didn’t need updating, it seems that the banks don’t really practice what they preach. People aren’t first; policy is.
It’s not only banks. Government agencies and private enterprises seem to have relegated people to a lower category of importance.
We don’t have to look far for examples.
Employees of businesses complain they have to fall in line and wait for hours when they need to transact with government agencies. Sometimes the agencies would turn away people who had already been waiting for half a day, citing excuses such as computer glitches or CoVID-19 limits.
Staff of these agencies would tell complaining people that it’s government rules. Rules, in other words, are more important than people who had invested time to wait only to be turned away.
When I complained to an internet service provider (ISP) that my internet reception was spotty, the ISP sent a technician to check. After inspecting my modem, the technician told me that the cause of the problem was a cable box outside of my residence but that another contractor would have to fix it as he wasn’t authorised to do so.
When I followed up with the ISP, the agent replied that my “account and job order were escalated and already included/linked to plant isolation which [the agent] can’t commit any ETR (estimated time of restoration).” Whatever that means.
The agent continued saying he “will now close this conversation since your current concern has been noted, explained, and escalated to the pertinent group.”
I received no more news and the internet never got better. Apparently, the ISP put their procedures first before people. I plan to change to another ISP once the contract with the current one expires.
I propose organisations put People First in their policies & procedures, and show it.
Banks shouldn’t burden customers with unnecessary forms and requirements that in the first place don’t need to be filled up and submitted.
Government agencies shouldn’t make people wait for hours only to turn them away.
ISPs should fix problems and feed back to customers, not leave them hanging.
It doesn’t need much in terms of resources or staff training to put People First. Much can be done by making it part of common-sense management.
First of all, it doesn’t take much for staff to be polite and to listen to their customers. Listening does take effort but it isn’t rocket science. One just has to take time to hear what the person is saying.
Second, organisations should study the impact of their policies & procedures. What are they putting first?
Bank staff would cite periodic audits as the reason for clients having to fill up forms. The staff fear audits because any detected deviation would be a bad mark on their performance. The fear of negative audit reports has made it a priority for bank staff to follow policies & procedures and ignore the complaints of clients. People don’t matter to bank staff because their attention is in their preserving their so-called good performance via compliance.
Executives can re-orient their policies & procedures and put People First. It starts with executives re-writing policies & procedures that consider clients’ needs and how performances of employees are measured and managed.
Why not, for instance, banks consider waiving the updating a client’s account information if the client can simply sign a statement that there is no change?
Why not include auditing the feedback of clients on how they feel about the bank on top of looking for errors or oversights in the execution of procedures? Why not praise staff for very good positive feedback rather than punishment for performance no one can perfectly do?
Why not ISPs set up a system to check the completion of jobs for clients? And have a small team be accountable for the completion? But consider every completion that receives positive client feedback as a basis of praise for the team?
Why not government agency heads just have a front-liner who’d monitor the queues of people waiting to be served? And communicate at the earliest about how long the wait would be rather than turning people away at the last minute? The same front-liner can also feedback to agency heads how many people wait every day and find ways to reduce the queues. And why not agency heads praise staff who succeed in reducing the queues?
Such sample steps would go a long way in shifting attention for the sake of people than for the sake of procedures and rules.
Putting People First is not just a slogan meant to be seen in a mission statement poster. It is a principle meant to be ingrained in all who work in an organisation.