Incompetence or Apathy


February 09, 2015

Incompetence or Apathy is a question that has surrounded my dealings over the past couple of weeks with businesses in several different industries. Or maybe it is just a “failure to communicate” or a failure to execute. Whatever it is, it appears to be contagious and or rampant.


Recently, Walgreens took over my local pharmacy. The transition has been less than smooth. The first transaction after the change was a nightmare as my prescription as well as prescriptions for others waiting at my local branch were all filled at a different Walgreens. Not what you want to hear when you are told you have to wait longer for them to fill the prescription when you are sick. Next prescription refill—it happened again. In fact, this time they asked me if I wanted to go pick up the prescription at another branch. I did not. An out of stock issue on a basic drug following this second failure prompted my wife to switch to CVS. Not smooth either. CVS was more than happy to get our business, however, when I went to pick up prescriptions they called me were ready, I was shocked at the price. They did not enter the insurance information that my wife gave them and thus I had to wait while they worked through the transaction. Guess what—next time, again after a call, the same thing happened. This time we discovered that they entered the insurance information for my wife, however, not for me. Now would you not think that the person handling the transaction, especially after the first mishap would have fixed it for both family members. Incompetence? Apathy? Failing to Communicate?


Next up was the newspaper delivery. I still enjoy reading the Sunday newspaper at breakfast. Two weeks ago on Sunday morning I opened the paper and found six sections. Three were correct sections, however three were from the previous Thursday. Unbelievable. I immediately called the circulation desk prior to 9 a.m. and conveyed the situation. Their first response was to tell me they would give me credit because they had no one to deliver the paper. I objected and they offered to have it delivered the next day. Again, I objected and was told they could do nothing else. I asked for a supervisor and got the same run around. I told him that I was confident that there was someone in their employ that could get a paper, even if they bought it at a convenience store, and deliver it to me, so I could enjoy my Sunday paper. No, they could not do this. I asked for the publishers name and they refused to give it to me, even though I communicated to them that I could find it on line or in the paper, so I could convey my dissatisfaction with their service. I also let them know that maybe this failure to resolve situations is one of the reasons newspapers are dying and that I would be cancelling my subscription and switching to the Durham paper. About an hour later I got a phone call from the District Manager that handled the carriers in the area. He promptly told me he was sorry for my missed delivery. I communicated to him that whoever handles complaints could not even get my complaint right. He graciously apologized and said a paper would be delivered as soon as possible. He delivered one personally within 45 minutes. Three people had a moment of truth to make my experience a pleasurable one or a nightmare, and it took a fourth to fix it. Incompetence in three? Apathy in three? Definite communication issues in at least one! As I write this on Sunday at 9:19 a.m., my paper has still not been delivered today.


My primary care physician and I agreed that I needed to see an orthopedic surgeon to discuss an issue I have. To my amazement, they scheduled an appointment for me without consulting me to see if I was available. I was not. I gave them my availability and the orthopedic surgeon’s office could not accommodate any of my available times. So I received another call back and they asked me if I could call and find a time to meet with the doctor. No problem. I made the call and discovered that Triangle Orthopedic has 16 locations in the area and my primary care physician’s office, instead of asking for a preference, tried to schedule me in an office that was significantly further away from my house than I would have chosen. When I called, I was able to set my scheduled appointment for two days prior to when they initially tried to schedule me, at a location much closer to my house. This surely is a “failure to communicate.” However, it could also be incompetence or apathy.


I received an e-gift card for Christmas. The email from the company had a link for me to use for my next order. I tried to use it yesterday. The link took me to my accountant and in the space listed for gift cards it had $0.00. I was hoping it would properly populate when I placed an order. It did not. What caused this—the person taking/processing the order and sending me an email failed to post the amount to my account? The computer system not being able to process the order properly? Incompetence? Apathy? Communication? I am awaiting a response to the email I sent attached to a copy of the email they sent me. Two years ago, I had a similar issue with this company on an e-gift card.


Yesterday I went to Subway. Twice I had to repeat my order because the order taker either was not paying attention, or not listening. Incompetence? Apathy?


Have we become a Nation of incompetent people doing simple tasks? Have we become an apathetic Nation with total disregard for basic customer service? Has the ability to properly communicate effectively become a lost art due to email, texting, etc.? Or is it just simply a failure to execute? What is causing all of this? Is it education and the school systems? Is it the failure for parents, educators, and managers to instill a proper work ethic? Is it that payrolls are so tight and margins so low that employees are overwhelmed and cannot handle simple tasks? I doubt it because most of these people in these positions are mavens at multi-tasking with an iPhone.


Human resource personnel and managers are a major contributor to these problems. Are they conducting effective interviews? Are they looking in the right places for personnel? Are they conveying and reinforcing expectations for performance? Are they properly training? Are they properly empowering? Are they holding people ACCOUNTABLE, truly ACCOUNTABLE for their performance? Many I encounter are reluctant to confront and hold their employees ACCOUNTABLE. They are afraid to OWN the ship despite the failures costing them money.


By the way, in reflection, leveraging the Law of Attraction, I must be attracting this kind of performance by those serving me. So, I am holding myself ACCOUNTABLE and communicating to those that short change me with customer service of my displeasure and setting my reticular activating system to attract positive customer service experiences.


So the question today is—do you truly OWN your results and hold your employees ACCOUNTABLE for their performance? If not, why not?