In the old days of the Soviet Union,collective farms managed the growing process like this:  one brigade tilled the soil, one brigade planted, one watered, another harvested and no one was responsible when the crop failed.  Unfortunately, this same style of management and customer service seems to have been adopted by America’s biggest companies.

This fact was brought home to me recently when I tried to buy FIOS from Verizon, a task that has become almost impossible to accomplish.  The business office took my order and lost it.  Another team apologized and retook the order and passed it on to the tech department.  They scheduled an install but first did some pre-work and put the drop to the house in the wrong place.  Then back to the business office. They apologized, (nice empty apologies, Verizon does well)  then refused to believe that their tech department had made a mistake and just kept asking us to confirm that Verizon would now be our long-distance carrier, saying that once we did that, FIOS would be ours.

Our result: a month of wasted phone calls, empty apologies and failure to get a product we want.

Lest you think this is a rant against Verizon, it’s not.  It’s sadness and frustration at the state of American business.  These companies are too big. In an effort to achieve greater efficiencies,  Verizon, Microsoft, ATT, HP have so compartmentalized the manufacturing, selling and customer service functions, that like collective farms, no one has any ownership of the result and no one can see the whole picture.  Customer service representatives have become nothing more than script readers and are not encouraged to think. And even if they try, they have no authority to do anything.

We wonder why we’re not competitive anymore.  Too many businesses are focused on short-term profits and not on what really matters: delivering excellent products and services and treating people–employees and customers alike–with respect and dignity.  It’s really pretty simple.

Instead of investing millions of dollars in advertising to get customers, why isn’t corporate America investing more to deliver excellent experiences with their products and services? Look at how much time Verizon and we have wasted on buying a product.  Heaven help me if there is a problem once we do get the product, though one customer service person told me repairs work much better.

Verizon, can you hear me now?