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The Official Baldrige Blog

Why Is the "Good Guy" Always Victimized?

victim doll

Have you ever pondered this question? I didn't in a global sense until recently. I've had the same experiences you have with having my car hit and then feeling like I did wrong with all the hoops the responsible person's insurance company made me go through. But I never generalized that situation...until now.

A few recent incidents brought this to light for me. A colleague bought something on-line and the seller shipped the wrong item. When the seller was contacted they required the wrong item be returned before the correct item would be shipped and the return postage refunded. The seller made the mistake. Why didn't they offer to send a replacement immediately with a return shipping label for the incorrect item?

My car was recently subject to a manufacturer's recall. I had experienced the problem that triggered the recall. Even though the recall was on the national news, it took another two months until I got the recall notice to bring the car to a dealer. The recall notice described exactly what had happened to me (four times). I made an appointment and brought the car in. The service representative required me to sign a $150 diagnostic fee to be refunded if the problem was triggered by only the recall notice. I told them if the problem was greater it was triggered by the multiple times I experienced the failure. They should have been apologizing to me for the defect, not trying to get money for additional repairs. When I submitted a negative review in the on-line survey that followed the recall repair, I was immediately called by the service manager. He insisted that the approval for a diagnostic charge was necessary to protect them from a liability suit if the problem was something other than the recall item. I explained that if liability were a concern the recall letter should have been issued immediately and not months after the recall was announced. He continued to argue. I politely hung up! Who should have been protected in this situation, the dealer or me?

We are in the process of buying some real estate. After having a signed contract by us and the seller, the seller decided they weren't interested in selling and were not honoring the terms of the contract. The real estate agents started action to protect their commission if the seller reneged. I was told I could get a lawyer to fight for my interests. I am the customer, but the agents are focused only on their financial interests!

In all these incidents, the "good guy" is made to suffer. For making a purchase that benefits the seller, you are turned into an innocent victim with inappropriate consequences.

In the Leadership Category, the  Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence ask about creating and balancing value for customers and other stakeholders. In the Customers Category, the Criteria ask about building customer relationships to acquire customers, build market share, and enhance brand image. Do we need to add notes about victims' rights or how not to victimize your customers and stakeholders?

Think about your own experiences. How often are each of us turned into innocent victims? What about your organization? Do you unintentionally make victims out of some of your customers or stakeholders?

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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I have to disagree with your real estate example. The agents are not contract attorneys and it is your responsibility as a party to a legally binding contract to assert your own rights. Perhaps your agent could recommend a good attorney with whom they've worked on this type of issue in the past. This column shouldn't be a place for you to air your personal grievances. The tone of this entire post is very whiny and unprofessional. I find it unworthy of the public face of the Baldrige community.
I have been fired after being assaulted by a coworker. I have also 'taken a bullet' to protect a business on another occasion. They are similar situations, and at the core is flaw that likely ties-together all 'good guy' victimizations. I was fired because the management lacked concrete evidence. I left my other job 'on my own accord' because I did not trust those that would've handled the situation. Both stem from an inability to trust. How do we gain such an ability? In today's world it is possible. If technology can mediate conversations, such as with Google Glass, or similar devices, humans can gain insight into who they are engaging with, and perhaps have access to the concrete data that verifies human-claims.
That is a question that the consumer has to ask before engaging in business.
Thank you Denise for proving Harry's point.
Point well taken. Harry was using personal examples to amplify poor business practices, not whine. We all have daily examples of this, whether an employment siutatio, customer, or personal. When you know what quality processes and business relationships are "supposed" to be, there is a sense of amazement when it actually happens to you personally. The challenge for us all is not to solve Harry's examples but work with companies to eliminate poor business practices.
I totally agree with Harry's post. There is a certain point where business transactions boil down to the personal, fabric of life interactions that we encounter daily. I would hope that Baldrige principles and thought process is applicable even to what some may consider life's minutiae.
I second to this comment.
The challenge is that when working with a real estate agent, they position themselves as being ready to help you through any situation - with a sizable commission at the end as property values continue to escalate. What's the value of an agent if they aren't going to help you through these challenges? I just went through a challenging real estate transaction in California with a realtor that helped in every aspect of the transaction - including telling me when something wasn't worth fighting for and when it was. "Personal grievances" are frequently how we identify opportunities for improvement - and reflect on how our own organizations may not be providing the service/product that our customers are expecting. Don't get me started on my local post office...
Thank you to everyone who has already commented. I have never received this many blog comments this quickly. Obviously, the topic hit a responsive chord (both negative and positive). To build on Paul Grizzell's comment and to be clear about my intended purpose with this posting, it was not to whine. It was to encourage organizations to think about a significant potential opportunity for improvement. That opportunity is to take a fresh look at balancing the needs of customers and stakeholders. And to look at it from the perspective of whether they are unintentionally victimizing a key stakeholder.
I have no objection to the posting. I didn't find it whiny or unprofessional or airing personal grievances. When we work mostly with very good organisations with good approaches, it can sometimes be useful to remind ourselves what life can be like when dealing with other organisations. Some organisations - whether generally good or less good - might recognise elements of their own processes in these examples and be prompted to review and improve them.
All of these examples are possibly examples of poor customer service. I’ve had many experiences of great customer service. For instance, once my husband and I had just put a significant amount of money into a car to paint it and refurbish it with a new engine. The car was totaled by another driver. The insurance company wanted to give us the Bluebook wholesale price for the car. Our insurance company (USAA) paid us the full amount and then they went back and went against the other insurance company. I had an experience with Amazon where I was shipped a lawn mower that didn’t work. They sent me a new one without charge but told me that I would be charged if I didn’t send the old one back in 30 days. Then they sent me reminders several times. I didn’t have to pay for the shipping of the replacement and they sent me a sticker for UPS to send the first lawn mower back. Another perspective: Perhaps you wanted the car checked out for a problem, not just the recall. Customers take advantage of dealers also. What if they used their time, specialized equipment, etc. and then you went to another shop or fixed it yourself? If you only wanted the recall checked out, they really shouldn’t have charged you, but if the manufacturer doesn’t pay for these checks, then they might have to do this. You either need to buy a different brand of car, or you need to find a different car repair shop, or you need to remember that, if your car isn’t working, it might be your responsibility to pay for it. You don’t really give enough information for someone outside to figure out whose responsibility this really is. Is it the manufacturer who doesn’t support the dealers? Is it the dealer who doesn’t communicate well that there is a difference between a recall and checking the car for a problem? Or is it that you? Did you go to an independent shop and think that they were a dealership? Or did you want your car diagnosed for a problem where you wanted the dealership to use their time, materials, specialized equipment all for free? I had some recalls from Toyota and had a totally different experience with the recalls. On the other hand, once I had a problem and the Toyota dealership checked it out, gave me a ride to and from, and then told me everything was fine, filled up my tires, and didn’t charge me anything. I have had many positive (and only a few negative) experiences with Toyota so now you know why I’ve bought six Toyotas. If you go to the dealer’s shop, they really shouldn’t charge for checking the problem out but what if it isn’t due to the recall problem. I don’t own any stock or have any financial stake in any of these companies. If you sell a piece of real estate, you do need to get a deposit that is adequate to cover your expenses if the sellers don’t come through. If they can’t come up with an adequate deposit, that should give you pause. What would you think if the real estate agent demanded that you fight their legal battle? You’re an adult, right? Take it as a learning experience and make sure you are adequately protected next time. I’ve had learning experiences also, and, as the Baldrige criteria recommend, as a person and an organization, one needs to make sure that these experiences are incorporated into your processes. It is important to consider the reputation of any company that I purchase from. I have neither the time nor the money/interest to fight with companies. I don’t want a $29 piece of software to put malware on my computer. The hidden costs of bad customer policies are very high. If a company gives me bad service even once, they might never see me again. The Baldrige criteria on customer service show why these principles are so important in developing strong companies and organizations. Educating customers about their rights and RESPONSIBILITIES is an important component of that.
This is probably the best post I've read in a long time. Too often leaders don't make it personal and, hence, don't connect with their audience. Incidentally, regarding the car, I had a similar wait for three recalls almost simultaneously, but there was no diagnostic charge and no hidden fees. Course, I reside in North Dakota where we do business differently from some other states. Oh, one thing more. Forty years ago I started a campaign for office in my hometown in Southeast LA County. Shortly after, I bought a motorcycle that I found was a lemon and had no recourse with the dealer the next day. I started pushing for a lemon law that, in time, became championed by politicians in California. To make a long story short, it translated into Carfax. Which, as they say, shows that when a person takes a personal gripe public, if there are enough similar gripes that also go public, one can change the world. Isn't that, to a vast extent, at the root of the Baldridge Award?
The article mentioned the Leadership and the Customer Categories and really asked us to think about the impacts of actions, which will be measured in the Results section. If an organization is going to be "World Class" or even survive their interactions with their customers and stakeholders are critical. A book called "The Art of Contrary Thinking" by Humphrey B. Neil supports the approach of using results to drive decisions as opposed to emotions. Often in cases as mentioned above emotions are running high.
From a "retireee's" perspective, the bottom line is it's all about relationships. Baldrige criteria and principles lead businesses to choices based on integrity, other core values that build trust both internally and externally to ANY business and with their partners! My son is a real estate agent and partner and he works with a man whose business is reputation ...they are not the biggest or the most well known in the area, but when you know your agent will do anything from installing a light switch to knowing and advising you as Paul Grizzell mentioned. Baldrige cannot HELP but improve these aspects of any business & I will preach it til the day I die!
I so appreciate the personal examples in this article. They elevate it above thought and theory, and make excellence personal. They show that customers' feelings have a significant role in service excellence. I recently discontinued my TV/internet service with one company and moved to another. There are many reasons for this. One that stands out: I was mailed a new modem because the 2 month old modem I was deemed the cause the service interruptions. When the new modem did not work any better than the old, a service tech was dispatched. I had to arrange time off of work for the visit. I was told he could take the old modem back. When he arrived, he told me he was not allowed to take the old modem back because the company had a history of charging people for equipment thus returned. I had to drive to a UPS store and mail it there. When I total the billing errors, the service visits, hours of calls to tech support, and obvious disconnect between the tech support version and the service version of the problem, I feel like I was living the movie "Brazil". Unfortunately, there was no Tuttle to help me. I share this because we all have experiences where we learn about excellence from its lack. It's not whining to talk about this, it's often referred to as making lemonade.
Harry, great points made. I think all the responses were positive toward the point you were making. What was the core, root message you were sending? How did it affect you, or why did you make the point now? You dealt with all that and more in your excellent post. Keep up the good work.
LeRoy, My main message was that organizations need to look at customer engagement not only from the relationship building perspective, but also to make sure they are not unintentionally creating victims out of customers or stakeholders while they are trying to balance stakeholder needs. Thanks for asking.
So, why not start using the Criteria to help the Baldrige Program itself. CO and TX award pomargrs have published their answers to the Organizational Profile Queestions. When will the Baldrige Program do the same?
The Baldrige Program has written an Organizational Profile and revised it various times over the years. It uses the criteria as a management guide and has done several self assessments. Thanks for the comment.
If I were you I would write to the Attorney General office and complain. Additionally, check out the law at leg gov for all of the laws on the consumer protection act. Fill in the search as CA for California, WA for Washington, accordingly.
Part of the message I took away from this is to be deliberate and thorough in your assessment/analysis of situations, whether personal or business. The pace of business is not slowing down and it is more challenging than ever to stay abreast of so many details that can come back to "bite" you. Balance is a key word to consider, and have deliberate conversations about with your organization, suppliers and customers. The framework and criteria provide a great way to leverage balance across many aspects of your business and use the Org Profile to determine what is important.
Great article! I have been there many times. These are perfect examples of choosing NOT to do business with poor customer service businesses and telling your friends and family not to do business with them. It is too bad though that you have to experience the bad to know which businesses who fail on good business policies. Good example of how the Baldridge Framework is so essential for businesses.
Will no one among us speak up for the nasty old sellers? Are we are only hearing one side of EVERY mini-tragedy recalled on this blog? I suggest that sometimes "bad" things (outcomes) happen to people who do not have a systematic process (for selecting RE agents, for example). Certainly there are more than 1 RE agent to choose from. There is a famous study reported (and repeated) in customer satisfaction literature for this national sample on the prevalence of high customer satisfaction. Q1: How confident are you that ALL COMPANIES provide high satisfaction? A: 10% Q2: How confident are you that YOUR INDUSTRY provides high satisfaction? A: 75% Q3: How confident are you that YOUR COMPANY provides high satisfaction? A: 90% Q4: How confident are you that YOU PERSONALLY provide high satisfaction? A: 99% The early Roman Baldrige Examiners wrote this as the first Category 3 OFI on record - "Caveat emptor." This may be a little prescriptive, but it really hits the massa (Latin for nugget) on the head. There were too many examples and the relevance was embedded in gravitas conveyed by its pithiness. Et tu, Baldrigus Harrius? Examani et Populusque Baldrigi, lend me your ears. Please do not push the Baldrige version of the legendary Russian "reset" button" based on this unscientific sample that generally correlate (maybe if we use a beta distribution) to the questions above.
Citizen Barrius, I do appreciate your comment and indeed the first rule of customer interaction is Caveat emptor. Fortunately, the Baldrige Criteria and customer expectations have evolved since the days of the Roman Empire. Today there is an expectation of exceeding customer needs and in successful businesses building relationships with customers to gain their loyalty. That said this blog post was not intended as a scientific study.The real estate anecdote aside, non-customer stakeholders can be put into victim status, as well as customers who do not do all the research that you suggest. My point remains that organizations need to balance the needs of all stakeholders and try to avoid creating victims of some of them, even if unintentionally.

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