This phrase is contained in a page of an operations manual that young graduates and otherwise successful job applicants have to read and memorize. So much so that they actually say “Good morning, ma’am/sir,” even if they can see you are obviously a woman or obviously a man. And this is the start of the demise of the young brains we tried to train in schools.
Depending on the course taken, students are trained in critical thinking, creative thinking and even humanities. They are trained in the rigors of math and science—which are exact disciplines—and allowed to create and stretch the brain in creative writing, arts and even communications.
Then they graduate and look for a job. Because of high turnovers in the job market, companies have manuals for everything—opening and closing a store; how to fill a juice dispenser; how to pour water into a coffee brewer—everything is written, so there are no mistakes.
Then there are manuals for customer service: dealing with an irate customer; saying sorry at the right time; and managing senior citizens and persons with disability (PWDs), etc.
These rigid company standards have also caused the demise of the gray matter. You only need to read and memorize. You need not analyze and come up with a better solution. It’s all there in a manual. Your brain only needs to read and memorize.
We were in discussion with one of our key managers in a previous business, and he observed the same scenario. So much so that he decided to just hire fresh graduates and draw on their brains like a blank canvas. Rewire them to think. Rewire them to analyze and use different parts of their brain. And he has come up with great results.
Many employers, especially in the retail industry, lament this development in personnel training. Most companies complain of high employee turnover, no loyalty and, most of all, no leadership skills for potential managers.
“Even the managers who used to come from international food chains are already of lower grades,” he says. And the better ones have been recruited to work abroad because of their language proficiency and their experience working in Manila stores. Yet, we as customers demand good service. As employers, we want good employees who think, learn on the job and who stay. How do we find them? Or do we mold them ourselves?
Then you call for customer service from your friendly credit-card provider. You are greeted by a recorded voice that gives you options—press 1 or 2 and here you are waiting for the prompt, “speak to an officer”—which now takes about six to eight presses of different options. This is so even if the bank holds a substantial amount in deposits of your money—they let you speak to a voice. But when you bring cash and open an account, they let you speak to a real person. So even top executives need to go on this journey of “recorded messages,” causing the sales department of a bank the surprise that her customer has complaints about credit-card interests and penalties, and is now pulling out her account. Because credit cards let you speak to a voice, not a real person!
Indeed, it is the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI). And it has caused our youth’s brains to all go to waste, too. In a hundred years, we may have bigger thumbs and fingers to operate phones and tablets, and smaller mouths, because we may hardly use them anymore. And bigger ears that listen to recorded messages, too.
What is an employer of the future doing? He needs to operate with less people and depend on technology—because at least machines don’t leave you when a next job offer comes. So smart businesspeople will depend less on real people. Because the youth of today grew up without experiencing customer service — they find it normal to listen to recordings of instructions, and find it normal to talk to computers and machines.
Ah, gone are the days of real customer service. The market does not demand it anymore, I guess. And this is why I need to visit old haunts, old restaurants that seem to be stuck in a time machine. They have waitstaff who have been there for over 20 years, the food is good and consistent—even without fanfare of who the chef is. And they call you by your name or a simple ma’am or sir—and they do not need manuals. Just natural people skills.
I am afraid we are developing a generation that is so removed from the art of service. Sooner or later, we can be replaced by machines, too. And the Pinoy trait of niceness and people skills will soon be a thing of the past. If we are not careful, our biggest differentiator of the Pinoy malasakit and Pinoy “friendliness” may soon be a thing of the past.
Good evening, ma’am/sir.
Pacita “Chit” Juan is a governor of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), the president of Women’s Business Council of the Philippines, and a leader of BPW or Business and Professional Women (Makati). She is an advocate of women empowerment through business. You can find her on LinkedIn (Pacita Juan), Twitter (@chitjuan) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.