During your recent press conference in Naga City, you said that you know that the government “has its shortcomings and that our complaints are valid.” Then you offered assurances that during your first 100 days in office, your administration will immediately address our concerns. This is not going to resonate with us, and you know why? Let me explain by way of sharing to you my experience as a former worker in the BPO industry, which you helped built. Before I continue, please stop taking all the credit: without the workers the industry would be dead.
When I was still in the Philippines, I worked in two BPOs. Both required customer service skills. One of the most important part of our training is interpersonal skills, which pivots around listening well. The hardest, and perhaps the most essential, part of our job is pacifying and responding to irate customers. And take note, we’re doing this during the wee hours of the morning, while you were already asleep. Our job is to defuse the tension and de-escalate the situation.
There are things you don’t say to an irate customer, such as calm down and an empty “I understand you.” The former often produces the opposite result, while the latter can only be effective if followed by a restatement of the issue being raised by the customer. In the face of an irate customer, my job is to walk with him and take him out of the fog of his anger by putting myself in his shoe and showing him the way out of his predicament. It's about connecting rather than building a wall like differentiating yourself by using one of the most exclusionary identities: disente. And it’s not just the words we use that's important. The non-verbal aspects of our communication matters more than what we say. Finally, what makes an effective customer service is summarised by this two words: Taking Ownership.
|Disclaimer: Photo not owned; credits belongs to the owner|
The best example of your inept customer service skill was the way you responded to that CNN reporter who told you this during the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda: “I have been travelling to the city every day and every day, I passed through the same bodies on the street. You are trying to reassure the people. They are still living next to the decomposing bodies.” While wearing your campaign shirt, this was your response: “Let me just correct that. They are not the same bodies. Every day, we pick up the bodies. I myself led a pick-up, a cadaver recovery team yesterday and the day before.”
You deflected the responsibility. Instead of taking ownership of the situation by asking the reporter to tell you where these bodies were so you could organise a team to pick them up immediately, you deflected the responsibility and took the opportunity to make yourself look better. If I did this with a customer, s/he would have already demanded to speak to my supervisor. My team leader would have already given me at least a verbal warning, and the QA listening to my calls would have already given me a failing grade.
Mar, you are making us more irate, and you’re not going to see the end of it if you’re not going to stop flattening out the day-to-day experience of Filipinos with soulless macro-economic data. You kept on mentioning your “the Philippines is now a bright star” mantra. That is very distancing.
What's disturbing about your language is that the most important view of the Philippines for you is the one from afar: the perspectives of people who don't live in that star, who don't have a first hand experience of its bureaucracy, who have no effing idea what's actually going on in the ground. While those sitting in their posh offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, and New York proclaim the splendour of our country, the people living in the Philippines live in its everyday beauty and squalor. As those economists declare that the Philippines is a star, "only 18 percent of Filipinos saw themselves as 'thriving' financially, while the rest of the represented population said they are 'struggling' or 'suffering' in terms of economic security [and the] Filipinos' perception of financial security is notably below the Asian and global averages of 25 percent" (http://bit.ly/23IP1ye). Furthermore, "according to the Department of Labor and Employment, before [the president you think you are replacing] assumed office in 2010 there were 2,500 OFWs leaving the country per day. By 2010 this number increased to more than 4,000; by 2015, to more than 6,000 daily" (http://bit.ly/26dUE6l). Stars may be pretty from a far, but they are uninhabitable and hostile places. When a star realises its full potential, you know what happens? It self-destructs, explodes, collapses on its weight, turns into a blackhole.
A country is not a “star-land,” Mar, BUT a “homeland.” Home provokes you to do the real work of making sure that the people living in this country live well, secure, safe, welcomed. And the points of view that matter aren't from the people living outside it. The Philippines must be a home Filipinos would never ever want to leave for another land. And that's more relevant, visceral, and aspirational than your star. Not as alluring as your bright star, but, trust me, home is where we would rather be.
Sass Rogando Sasot