Tuesday, February 2, 2021

To the corporate employee that couldn't sell the product for free.


I’ve been mulling over my experience and also taking time to try and see things from your perspective. I very much appreciate you reaching out to me after our last meeting. I also know that whenever I’ve reached out to someone with a sincere query—especially where professional matters are concerned—I’m keenly aware of the anxiety that can go along with not receiving an immediate reply. To quote a meme that I saw floating around social media once, “No response is a response. And it’s a powerful one.”

That being said, you do know that this whole episode is not your fault, right?

The shortcomings that you reference are not yours or even those of your immediate team members. When reference was made to an individual who was no longer with the company, I felt sad for that person because it’s not their fault either. I wondered if they “left” or were “let go,” and if it was because of me or something I had said. Did they have another job lined up? Were they able to pay their rent? This is a terrible time to not have any sort of income.

I’m not privy to the specifics of how [corporation]'s Utah operations are organized and managed but the problem—from my perspective, anyway—is “up the chain.”

I have worked in both sales—better known as “customer service” in recent decades—and technical support positions in the past. They’re largely thankless jobs that do not have a great deal of overlap—even when they operate under the same corporate banner.

The trend to rebrand “salespersons” with corporate euphemisms like “Customer Service Representative,” “Associate,” “Product Advisor,” “Specialist,” “Operations Expert,” etc., is obviously intended to inspire confidence on the part of the customer. To create the impression that they’re making the best possible choice in their purchasing decisions. Anyone would prefer to say that they “consulted with a ‘Specialist’" or an “Expert,’” instead of admitting that they were persuaded to buy something by just another “salesperson.” Companies want their customer[s] to feel as though they’re being “served” and not just “sold” something. I think this has also had some unintended consequences in regard to how employees are judged—by their managers, their colleagues, and even in moments of trying to evaluate their own worth, professionally and personally.

Of course, since the CSR is usually the first person that customers have any interaction with—and is often also the first person that they turn to for help after a sale has been completed—the reputation of any company often rests at the feet of their “customer service” staff. That is not fair. Even the most knowledgeable salesperson has to work under strict limitations—e.g. referrals to other departments*—put into place by corporate policy wonks, taking cues from in-house legal counsel, that inevitably tie their hands when it comes to doing their job most effectively. Thus, the line between “service” and “support” is drawn.

If it’s any consolation, [corporation] doesn’t even show up in the immediate search results for customer service rankings of major companies, which typically place the worst contenders at the tops of their lists.

The marketing aspect of offering products or services to nonprofit organizations at little or no cost isn’t lost on me and I am happy to participate in and promote such efforts. It wouldn’t just be free advertising for those companies, it also serves the interests of my organization to show the community at large that we have the support of other businesses—the more brand-recognition they have, the better—and if that inspires other companies to provide us with additional products and/or services gratis, so be it. However, if the services that are being offered are mission-critical in nature, actual technical support would need to be more involved and readily available at the time of implementation. With so many alternatives available today, [corporation] no longer has the luxury of assuming that their products are already the default solutions for any company, for-profit or otherwise.

As for why this attempted association went off the rails, I asked my wife, Danica, “Is it karma?” Is this the price that I’m paying for all the times in the mid-90s that I used Regedit to hack into Windows 95 computers on display at Sears, modifying their default interfaces to even-more-closely resemble Apple’s OS, and renaming “My Computer” to “My ’87 Macintosh”? I didn’t boo Bill Gates when he showed up at Macworld ’97 looking like Big Brother behind Steve Jobs, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t possess some degree of resentment for all the crap I put up with for remaining a dedicated Mac user—as much as a matter of principle as out of genuine fear of having to learn how to use an objectively inferior operating system.

Danica told me that she doubted karma had anything to do with it.

My mind actually remains somewhat open to the idea of a future collaboration between Utah Filmmakers™ and [corporation]—though direct contributions are always welcome—but I am not likely to be the person that would interface† between our organizations. I handle the bulk of our operations on my own and would need to enlist the services of someone more familiar with [corporation]’s tools in order to implement them in a manner that’s beneficial to our immediate efforts and long-term goals.



* “Business Concierge” sounds a lot more impressive and accommodating than “Technical Support,” by the way. Kudos to the person in brand management that came up with that one.

†Is that dated business jargon? It feels dated… but it still seems to kind of work.

Joseph L. Puente
Utah Filmmakers™ Association