Steve Sachs Duke


Friday, May 14, 2004


The Fetishization of Rules: Finally, someone who understands. This customer-service debacle happened to take place with Orange Mobile, but it could have been any firm in England. One of the first things I learned after arriving here is that English bureaucrats, whether in public or private employment, would rather spend twice as much time (and lose twice as much money) inventing justifications for the existing rules than crafting new ones. Cory Doctorow documents the fetish:

At the end of the day, it came to this: These are our rules. We will stick to them. We will not make exceptions to them. We will hug them to our bosom beyond any kind of rationality or reason.

I am such a goddamned telephone junkie. I'm no Joi Ito with his $3,500 GPRS bills, but I've been spending $200 or $300 on cellular telephone damned near every month since 1992. I am every mobile carrier's dream. Any rational carrier would jump at my business.

But Orange isn't rational. It doesn't have a business plan, it has a bunch of superstitions to which it rigidly hews regardless of circumstance . . . .

My econ classes got it all wrong. Firms here don't seek to maximize profits; they seek to minimize employee effort.

UPDATE: A friend passes along an Economist article that confirms the stereotype:

A team led by Chris Voss of the London Business School found that service quality in Britain is typically worse than in America. One reason, the research suggests, is that British customers complain less about bad service than hard-to-please Americans do.
The result, Mr Voss finds, is that Brits suffer. But so do companies in Britain's service industries: they do not receive so much unsolicited feedback, and thus lose a chance to improve service quality. Indeed, they may spend more than they need to do on service-quality improvements, because they do not get direct help from customers.




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