Vail Valley Voices: A silver lining to lean times
Weve all been inundated with the woes and devastation of the countrys economic crisis. The thought that it may get worse before it gets better leaves little hope for the ever elusive silver lining.But there are some good things that may come from the mess were in.For instance, for the family that needs to trim expenses, try downgrading your kids cell phones. Get rid of the cameras, downloads and text messaging and return to the basics of making and receiving calls. The icing on the cake will be that youll eliminate the constant irritant of your kids texting every two minutes, and they may even learn to communicate verbally and correctly as intelligent human beings again.Downsize the conspicuous consumption of the previous decade. Instead of relying on electronic gadgets, actually do things with each other for a change. The economy gives you the perfect excuse.And there is another possible advantage that didnt originally occur to me.I was out to dinner recently with my friend Angela, who has owned a hair styling salon in Eagle for the past 10 years. In conversation, she happened to mention that business had dropped off a bit as it has for everyone, but she had come to a revelation. She said that the economy has made her genuinely appreciate her clients more than she ever did before.Bingo! Maybe, just maybe, the economy will foster a new era in which businesses place a long-overdue emphasis on customer service and appreciation. Wouldnt that be refreshing?When there was plenty of business to go around, companies stopped caring about the people who paid their bills. They started out-sourcing, and it became impossible to speak to a human being through all their automated prompts. Just try to get an actual person on the phone from Dell or AT&T. I would rather shove red hot pokers into my eyeballs.As businesses realize that consumers now have limited resources and will be very careful how and where they spend their money, those businesses will have to compete. Natural selection will weed out those who provide substandard services or products or show disregard or contempt for their customers.As consumers, we can exploit this difficult time to accomplish a righteous goal. We do not have to stand for being treated badly by those to whom we give our business. We can insist upon respect. Companies need us again. Americans now have the power to demand the personal attention that has been denied us in recent years. We just have to make those demands patently clear. Picture it.Businesses will go the extra mile. Just getting by will no longer be enough if they want to survive. Customers will expect to speak to a human being when they call. Automation and being kept on hold will not cut it. When businesses falter or services are not delivered as promised, we will get a heartfelt apology and compensation instead of indifference, excuses, denials or the passing of the buck. And if we dont get it, we will let them know we are taking our business elsewhere, and they will finally listen. Standing in long lines will prompt us to switch our alliances to places where serving people in a timely fashion is the norm. Business owners will come to learn that understaffing may save the short-term buck, but in the end, they will pay a high price in lost business. Employers will learn that appreciating, compensating and nurturing talented and capable employees provides far better customer service and subsequent profits than does constant turnover, outsourcing, payroll scrimping and incompetence. And we will all reap the benefits.Clients will rightfully expect that little bit more that shows them they are important. Inflexibly holding firm to policy without accommodation will become a thing of the past.We will send the very clear signal that rudeness, attitude, missed deadlines and unreturned phone calls mean that we will go elsewhere because a competitor will be more than happy to pay attention to us to getand keep our business. A friendly smile and a Yes, of course will replace insincerity and No, we dont do that.Instead of treating a person with a complaint as a whiney annoyance, businesses will take each comment as a call to do better in the future.We can make all this happen by insisting on nothing less. Businesses that do not subscribe to the new trends in customer care will fail. And they absolutely should.See, there may be a silver lining after all. David Dillon is an Eagle resident.