04 June 2010

BAH Can Be Hazardous to Your Company's Marketing Health

Telecom giant, AT&T, has been in damage control mode over the past several days, after a major customer service mishap spread all over the 'net and media like a Gulf of Mexico drilling rig blowout. It seems that customer Giorgio Galante wrote two emails concerning service pricing and phone upgrade eligibility to AT&T CEO, Randall Stephenson in two days. In response, one of AT&T's "$12/hour “Executive Relations” college students" called Galante to say, in effect, "Thanks for the feedback, and if you bother our CEO again, we’re going to send you a cease and desist letter."

Clearly, the internal manual on responding to email-to-the-chief nuisances procedurally directs the ER flaks to serve notice of legal action against harassment. In this sense, the respondent was merely "doing his job" (and how many times have we heard that excuse?). But, in doing said job, one of the founding principles of the BAH organization is clearly revealed: bureaucratic, administrative procedures are designed to eliminate human judgement from decision-making. BAH organizations systemically rob the "doers" of the ability to think - especially about consequences - for fear of losing their employment over "what part of the policy don't you understand?" Little wonder that if you look behind any sort of disaster, there's a BAH organization and individuals with BAH mentalities just doing their jobs (and no, my earlier reference to BP, the US EPA, and Congress was not simply snarky and gratuitous!).

Yes, AT&T did their damage control thing and had someone with a legitimated title attempt to smooth over the faux pas. That, of course, is not the point, as the genie is already out of the oil rig (sorry). This episode should rather serve as an early warning that a BAH organization places itself at risk in the contemporary world. Not only is it at risk of these sorts of marketing malfunctions; the simple reality that a BAH organization can neither innovate nor perceive quality suggests that BAH is indeed hazardous to an organization's health.

(Thanks, Michael!)

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1 comment:

Michael Bolton http://www.developsense.com said...

As an antidote, I've lately been pointing people to this TED talk by Barry Schwartz. I think it's brilliant.


---Michael B.