Friday, October 31, 2014

Not just a culture of good customer service, but a more humane one as well

There was a news recently about an employee at a KOI bubble tea shop who was dismissed after a customer’s video complaining about service at one of its branches went viral. I have been thinking about the topic of customer service, and reflecting upon the prevalent ethos of good customer service that is sought to be promoted in society. I wonder whether this strife for making the standard of our customer service ‘good’, is actually in a way dehumanizing of those who work in the customer service sector. I wouldn’t deny that there are merits to promoting a better customer service standard, but my apprehension is that such campaigns can be taken too far, and devalue the humanity of those working as customer service personnels.

For example, take an oft quoted line that ‘the customer is always right’. Is this rhetoric really appropriate? I don’t think it is. There are times when a customer can be unreasonable, or even abusive, and I think that there are times when such treatment should not be put up with, and the customer service personnel is in his right to refuse the customer or tell off the customer. There are times when I think that the management of a customer-service company should help protect the dignity of their staff, and not acquiesce to every bellicose customer’s complaint about the customer service officer. Not every criticisms have their merits, and it is important for someone in management position not to unfairly punish them based on unfair criticisms or accusations.

I for one know how easy it is for a superior to simply ‘take his subordinate to task’ simply because of a complaint from an unreasonable customer, in a bid to wanting to be seen to be doing something. I am not saying that there aren’t times when the subordinate is to be rightly disciplined or dismissed, but I think that it is far more common in certain service industries for superior or supervising personnel to take the easy route and scold or dismiss the subordinate working in the customer-service capacity.

I also wonder whether the prevalent conception of what good customer service is needs some re-examination. For example, is it actually a customer service virtue for a customer service officer to serve with a smile? If we stop to reflect about our common humanity, we would realize that the customer service officer is very much a human being like any of ourselves, with his respective woes and worries, and things to begrudge. It could be that the customer service officer had just a rough patch with an unreasonable customer beforehand, or is experiencing certain difficult issues and trials in his family, or in his life. Is it not something to be empathized about if we see a customer service personnel in glum disposition, rather than something to be critiqued about as bad attitude which should be righted with the fixture of an artificial grin despite a wrenching heartache that could be simmering beneath?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tort Law and the issue of suffering

One of the saddest areas of law that one can study is that of tort law. Torts deal with issues involving injuries caused by one party to another party in civil society. This can be intentional, in the case of battery, or unintentional, in the case of accidents due to negligence of one or more party. The role of the court in such cases is to make the liable tortfeasor compensate the injured party to such an extent as to restore him or her to his or her previous unharmed condition. The way in which the law seeks to achieve this, of course, is compensation in cash.

While compensation in cash does have its uses, such as allowing the injured party to obtain the necessary medical treatment to cure him of his injuries, or to receive the financial support due to the loss in earning capacity from him being injured, it also has its limitations. There are some forms of injuries that no amount of money would ever resolve. Money cannot bring a dead man back to life. And the victims of torts sometimes have to live their lives with the pain and suffering.

What strikes me from reading the tort cases, is the realization of my own susceptibility and vulnerability to forces of incapacitation. I have been reading on cases of torts in aviation law. A man could be sitting in a plane in a section that is close to a non-smoking section, and because of the pervading second-hand smoke into his non-smoking compartment, die from the inhalation. A woman could lose a hearing after what is the normal occasional depressurization of the passenger cabin during flight. Another man or woman could simply be taking a flight from one destination to another, and suffer from the effects of deep vein thrombosis leading to stroke and paralysis a few weeks after. And if you think about it, such individuals could be anybody. It could be you, it could be me. There is just no reason stemming from a deficit in care by the individual to avoid his or her contracting such a condition. And the repercussions are serious, leading to loss of life, or pain and suffering for the remainder of one’s life. Sometimes, the compensation is not adequate as well, or are unrecognized by the court for one reason or another. Such was the case of that woman who lost her hearing from that plane depressurization episode, because the court found that it was due to her own internal predisposition that resulted in her deafness. It’s life affecting, but there is just no compensation to be had.

I also wonder how to think about my Christian faith in light of all these knowledge that I come across in my reading of tort law. Should I say to myself that I should trust God more because there is only so much I can do to prevent such injuries to myself, and I should appeal to God to avert such injuries to myself? Or should I say that there is no point trusting God in ensuring my well-being since he has failed to protect the well-being of so many other individuals as well? Indeed, I have suffered injuries to my health, and I don’t think I was in anyway dismissive of God when it comes to wanting him to protect my well-being then. Yet, I have to contend with the fact that I am living with these injuries to my health.

I just think that the most prudent approach to take regarding such things in life is to take reasonable cautions when going about one’s life. It would be remiss to say that one should just trust God, and not worry about harm coming one’s way. Yet, one should also realize the susceptibility of oneself to such ills in life that may very well be caused to oneself through no fault of his or herself. I am not sure though what one can do about it. I pray to God, partly simply out of self-interest that I wish that God can control such circumstances to avoid such ills upon myself, but I am not truly sure whether God is doing anything or is effective at all. But then again, I can’t dismiss the possibility that God has been protecting me from various harms that I am just not aware of, even though he may not have prevented certain harms upon me. Yet, I can’t discount the fact that bad things do happen to good people, and God seems not to be doing anything to help. It is precisely because this is so that we have such societal measures as social security and insurance, and a legal system of tort to try to ameliorate the hardship of individuals. 

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