Can’t say we’re surprised
There isn’t much you can say about cable company customer service that would be positive. In fact, you could say the three constants in life are death, taxes, and cable companies sinking to a new low.
This most recent new low came about during a senate subcommittee hearing, where representative from Charter Communications, Time Warner cable, and Dish (among others) tried to defend some of their terrible business practices. It went as well as you imagine, which is to say, it was terrible.
Rather than spend too much time crapping on cable companies (no pride in hitting an easy target), let’s go over how to not be like these corporate megalomaniac, based on what they said in the hearing:
1. Customer service isn’t a zero-sum game
A report released by the committee showed Charter and TWC both failed to issue automatic refunds to customers when they were made aware of billing errors. These errors accounted for at least half a million dollars in overbilling.
So, how did they respond? For starters, they claimed that they refund over $150 million per year to other customers, so it all evens out.
Doing the right thing by one customer doesn’t make things any better for the party scorned.
2. If you are in the hot seat, get your numbers right
In that same discussion, TWC and Charter claimed (through some questionable math) that only 8,000 customers had billing errors, when the report had established that 40,000 customers in Ohio alone in 2015 experienced problems.
But hey, at least they had an answer. That’s arguably not as bad as the instances of complete silence that followed questions about whether or not they advertised the price of their services after the promotional price was lifted.
At this level, where executives have time to prepare for such an inquisition, this mistake is just pathetic. If you ever have time to prepare before defending yourself, get your facts straight.
But what if you are put on the spot? It’s acceptable to ask for time to get the numbers right. If the customer insists on an immediate remediation, see if you can refund part of the issue until you can investigate the scope of the remedy. And while we’re on that topic…
3. Be up front about the value of your business
Nobody likes liars. They’re just nasty. So it can’t be a good look for Dish when they admitted to charging for HD TV, an item they brag about offering “for free, for life” in their advertising. According to their Senior VP of Operations, HD fees are included in the receiver that they pay for. Now, bundling fees isn’t a strange idea, but it’s rather brazen to admit that in a congressional hearing when it directly contradicts your marketing message.
If you have to lie about your business value, your business value probably isn’t that good.
Play to your strengths, and don’t try to make them out to be something they’re not. Consumers (and congress) can and will sniff out the BS.
There, and back again? Working remotely now, and in a post-vaccine world
(BUSINESS NEWS) Working remotely is now a subject openly discussed in the business world, and is affecting every employee in organizations. Companies should adapt while remaining careful to avoid common pitfalls.
I’m not even sure it’s up for debate anymore – working remotely is not lowering productivity. Several employers (90%!) are saying this (perhaps surprised with the findings). There was a lot of concern and hand wringing about this in the first part of the 2020 decade, but the experiments have bore out data that largely suggests it’s a viable option.
Working remotely has not been without its issues. Communication remains a concern and always will be, whether that is with coworkers or management, parents have more to deal with, and virtual meetings carry their own set of logistics that we’re all still navigating. But productivity has – surprisingly – been upheld despite the massive shift.
So this brings us to the next problem on the horizon – what happens once the pandemic is over, specifically with regard to remote work? Will workers want to return to their offices (assuming they are still available)? Will it affect a company’s entire workforce, or will it be left up to individual employees to decide? Could a hybrid system work?
“Hybrid can be horrible,” says Gitlab CEO and co-founder Sid Sijbrandij. Gitlab has functioned as a fully remote company since its inception, and now has over 1,300 employees across 66 countries. They have written an extensive book that covers their processes for maintaining this setup, which has seen an increase in downloads since the beginning of the pandemic.
Sujbrandij explains that, “If you try to do hybrid you will have an A team and a B team, those in the office and those deprived of information and career opportunities.” This will create a disconnection between both groups, and will ultimately result in a breakdown in communication between those who work remotely versus those reporting into the office. This can lead to a number of potentially damaging scenarios – favoritism, knowledge being hidden away and siloed, and creating unfounded myths about productivity and commitment.
In other words, companies – once given the opportunity to return to a centralized workspace – may fall into the incorrect assumption that there can be flexible rules that apply to everyone under the guise of personal preference. This is a great idea in theory, but sounds a lot like the time Jim tried to celebrate everyone’s birthday on the same day. The ultimate joke of the episode is that the plan fails spectacularly – there’s so much unforeseen logistics and opinions and requests that everyone ends up disappointed; Michael comes back and consoles a broken Jim, stating that he’d tried that before.
Prithwiraj Choudhury – a professor at Harvard Business School – weighs in with similar advice, stating that companies need to take this transition seriously, with the potential for several months or years to fully complete the process. A recent article he authored explores this idea, with a huge emphasis on the idea that we will not simply work from home, but from anywhere, embracing a future where employees will be able to choose to live in other cities, states, or countries.
He further elaborates that this will be a necessity to help attract and keep key talent, and that this should be one of the primary motivations. “You really need to be convinced of why you are embracing this model. … This is the way to attract and retain the best talent. There are real estate costs and other benefits, but those are secondary.”
One way to help this is to ensure that everyone is on board – that even the C suite executives need to work remotely, functioning as a “shining example” that emphatically and enthusiastically embrace knowledge sharing. They can utilize Slack channels (or other communication avenues), and pursuing all necessary methods to ensure access is evenly applied across the board and given to all employees.
As we turn into a new year where a vaccine might be available, there will come a time when companies must re-evaluate their approach to working remotely again, making sure to have protocol and process that is definitive.
End of unemployment benefits spell disaster without plans to replace them
(BUSINESS NEWS) If Congress doesn’t agree on a stimulus extension, December 31st could be a massive “cliff” for millions of unemployed Americans
If you’re still employed, chances are you know someone who has been furloughed or laid off as a result of COVID-19. Unemployment benefits from the CARES Act have cushioned the economic fallout from the pandemic for millions of Americans who are currently jobless. As someone who was furloughed from my 9-5 at the beginning of quarantine, I was extremely relieved to discover that the government had a plan for myself and others in my shoes.
However, without an agreed upon plan from Congress, these benefits are set to expire at the end of the year. This inaction would make unemployed Americans exceedingly more vulnerable to poverty and eviction. So, what’s the deal Congress? Why are y’all dragging your feet?
Here’s what you have to know about the current state of things:
- Since the end of July, when extra unemployment benefits (aka the “extra $600) expired, most unemployed people are only making about half of their wage
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about two unemployed workers for every open job (yikes!)
- Over 10 million people are collecting pandemic-related unemployment benefits in America – and another 345,000 filed new applications last week – this isn’t “getting better”
- After December the federal ban on evictions will be lifted, meaning we will most likely see a massive spike in unhoused individuals and families
All of this is happening as the holiday season approaches and a third wave of COVID spikes across America. As it gets colder in many places, many businesses that made it through the first waves are expected to close and, subsequently, their workers are expected to be laid off.
Everything is coming to a head on December 31st. If Congress doesn’t get its act together and agree on what a pandemic relief extension needs to look like, the American people will undoubtedly experience a very dark and depressing winter and spring.
Jean Kimmel, an economics professor at Western Michigan University, states that: “A society that already was becoming increasingly unequal will just become even more unequal [without benefit extensions].” Because COVID-related unemployment disproportionately affected America’s gig and low-wage workers, as well as women and People of Color, the failure to extend benefits would only further exacerbate the economic inequality in our country, which isn’t good for anyone.
Let’s hope our politicians can put aside their differences for the sake of the general public. Fingers crossed.
“Run it Hot” policy expected under Biden administration
(BUSINESS NEWS) A new policy plan has been announced, and it places more responsibility on government rather than the underemployed.
President-elect Joe Biden has a plan to get the United States back to work in a post-COVID-10 world—and the policy focuses on jobs, not skills.
Hailed as the “run it hot” policy, the Biden administration plans on keeping with the current Federal Reserve policy of stimulating the economy by any means necessary, creating enough demand to pull people into work. This runs in contrast to the “skills gap” policy, which conjectures that people who’ve been thrown out of work won’t be re-employable unless they take it upon themselves to learn new skills in growing industries. Current Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has signaled his support for the Biden administration stance, promising to let unemployment fall much further than in the past before raising interest rates.
“If we don’t have enough jobs for workers, it doesn’t matter how many skills they have. They are going to be underemployed,” said Jared Bernstein, an adviser to Biden who had previously been his chief economist, “Historically, skill arguments have been used to avoid invoking government or Federal Reserve interventions… Basically: ‘It’s not the economy’s fault, it’s their fault.’ And time and again, that’s been proved to be wrong.”
How much of the policy Biden will be able to implement, however, is up in the air. The government has already spent $3 trillion this year on pandemic rescue funds, with more possibly on the way. The administration would have to get congressional approval to enact its vision to full effect, and while the Democrats have control of the House of Representatives, two runoffs in Georgia will determine which political party gains control of the Senate. Should Republicans retain control of the upper chamber, they may veto any further spending plans.
So far the virus measures passed by congress have helped millions. By expanding unemployment benefits, the administration has managed to keep several working households afloat while businesses remain closed due to the coronavirus. According to Cecilia Rouse, who served under President Barack Obama on his Council of Economic Advisers, this will pay dividends when the pandemic has passed.
“We’re a largely consumption-based economy, so when I buy something, I’m creating a job for somebody else,” said Rouse, “I still think there’s a lot of room there for spending and economic assistance being part of the economic support and actually creating jobs.”
We’ll have to wait until January to see what form of the policy will take effect in the U.S., but changes are inevitable with a new incoming president—domestically and abroad.
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