Discretion as Rare as Common Sense?

Last week, within the pages of the VOICE Newspaper, we shone the spotlight on customer service, whether or not it had plummeted in the wake of the global pandemic. Largely, what we came to realize was that this was completely dependent on individuals and companies, and their respect and appreciation for their own customers – not even Covid-19 can stop a person from seeing dollar signs and not real people with feelings and needs, and letting that get in the way of how they conduct business.

Aside from being able to deliver decent customer service, another consideration that was touched upon was the ability of the staff of businesses providing various goods and services, to use their discretion. Before getting into it, one must ask whether discretion really is a fair expectation with matters relating to business transactions, or is it truly as rare a find as common sense? Can one rightly expect that the people they are dealing with to acquire the things they want, and need will be able to operate on a discretionary basis?

The answer to that will likely vary depending on whom you ask. More often than not, this does not seem to be a fair expectation. Take for example bank transactions, and even conducting business with local courier services. When customers have questions or complaints, it is not uncommon for policies that are often dated and rigid, to be used instead of compassion and care… particularly in the case of the latter. Many times, there is no real discourse, no air of compassion (even if feigned) – and these interactions come to an abrupt end leaving customers feeling dejected – as though the companies or institutions are the ones doing them the favours by taking their money, and not the other way around.

In cases like these, many people resort to getting loud and belligerent – which sometimes can seem more effective than calmly trying to have one’s voice heard, and considerations taken seriously. Why this is so, and why some people respond more effectively to this kind of behaviour as opposed to a person with the same objectives and concerns seeking redress in a manner that can be seen as more “civil” is a question for which the answer may go right down colonial lines, but it is a reality that still very much exists today.

It is also questionable whether “bosses” or the ones at the top of the ladder at these companies even allow their staff to use their discretion. Whether a security guard who has been instructed not to let anyone park even for a few minutes, and even if the lot is empty and they have an emergency or a staff member of a restaurant who has been instructed that the company issues no refunds, no matter the complaint… these complaints do eventually make their way to the top. The response, or lack thereof then, tells us all everything we need to know about such companies, where discretion can seem something frowned upon.

In any event, the best we can all do is to remember that we are dealing with human beings, and that we are also human beings, and not robots. Different circumstances and situations demand different responses, and in every instance, compassion should be a part.

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