Monday, April 08, 2013

The Lie of Customer Service

It was my first significant job after college and I still remember my enthusiasm when Mr. Kummer detailed Prudential’s commitment to customer service and to doing things right. I remember too the shock I felt when they laid off Olga just shy of the time she needed to be fully vested for a life of benefits. Olga was German and stereotypically always punched in on time, never missed a day, punched out on time for breaks and gave each day her best shot. The company wasn’t about rewarding employees for good service nor did they really believe all that talk about their customers. That was when I grew jaded. That was when I fully understood the disconnect between what most large companies say and what large companies do.

Today I work for a large grocery store owned by a large company. The employees are union employees. The contract is up for renewal in March of 2014. Every Monday the President of the company along with the VP and a marketing guy broadcast a rah-rah-rah video. Today they highlit how much money this Company puts toward pensions and employee health insurance. This was prefaced and followed by words and pictures trumpeting the value of the employees to The Company. I suspect that is not the truth.

I’ve gone through a number of contract negotiations and each time both sides begin pushing their propaganda a year before the contract is to be ratified. Today was the opening volley in what will be the Company’s position. They give us health insurance and a pension. In return we should not even think about not accepting their proposals. Nor should we even remotely consider the idea of a strike.

As I watched the video today I thought, “What a shame that I can not trust nor respect this leadership team.” Words mean little when they are not followed by action. Currently there is a small fault between what we hear and what we see. My fear is that it’ll be obvious what’s shaking when the union and the company collide next year.

Picture courtesy Library of Congress

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