Shamelessness is a pervasive disease attacking values that good parents and conscientious business people hold dear. Tire dealers who blithely ignore this sickness are endangering the longterm health of their businesses. Outwardly, tolerating shamelessness tarnishes a tire store's valuable reputation with consumers. Inwardly, ignoring the problem weakens workers' self-respect and their respect for their bosses. Here's why.
Recently, I've read essays discussing how the concept of shame has been an issue in religion and philosophy as long as anyone can remember. Look up synonyms for blame in a thesaurus. Two words always mentioned are ``responsibility'' and ``accountability.''
A common theme is that sooner or later, we're all accountable for our actions. For example, we're accountable to colleagues, bosses and family today and we're accountable to a higher being tomorrow. In short, life's endeavors should not be a contest called ``Get Away With What You Will!''
Acceptance or even tolerance of shamelessness, writers argue, indicates how thin our moral fiber has become. You can debate the ghoulish, whorish reporting the mass media often does. But these critics say the actions of personalities such as O.J. Simpson, Michael Irvin, Tonya Harding, et al., reflect how far accountability has fallen.
Some say the reason the media continues this kind of coverage is news directors believe the public tacitly tolerates the outrageous, irresponsible behavior of sports and entertainment personalities!
It's unfortunate some kids have grown up with the impression fame and fortune excuse someone from being responsible. Worse yet is believing that high-profile people needn't show any shame or remorse for irresponsible behavior.
Part of the solution
Let's get back to the tire dealer's stake in this issue. The expression, ``If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem,'' applies precisely to the epidemic of shamelessness.
Certainly you don't want employees shaming the business' reputation with the kind of drug-fueled, ego-driven high jinks some high-profile personalities pull. But those shenanigans aren't nearly as likely to injure your dealership's image as are shamelessly rude and indifferent workers.
One of the most common complaints you hear concerning any retail service provider, including automotive repair facilities, is about the rude or indifferent way in which front-line personnel handle common customer inquiries and telephone calls.
In your own personal experience, how many times have you sensed the person handling your inquiry felt no need to be prompt or polite to you?
I have actually overheard front-line personnel in a nearby employee lounge joking with each other, unaware of how loudly they were speaking. ``How could the boss penalize us for being abrupt with stupid callers—force us to continue answering the phones?'' they boasted.
How many times have you seen parts or tire delivery people serving your store who don't really care when they show up, which merchandise they actually deliver, or what condition the merchandise is in?
When you complain to the supplier, he brushes you off with a glib remark that the shameless deliveryman is the best he can provide because decent help is so hard to find today. (That in itself is a shameless remark because it indicates no accountability!)
Conscientious, shrewd bosses can become part of the solution tomorrow. First, set down strict rules of engagement for telephone and personal contact with consumers. Hold a team meeting to explain the rules and give everyone a list of rules in writing. For example, if someone's left on hold for longer than a minute, take their name and number and call them back as soon as humanly possible.
Always use a tone of voice that suggests empathy rather than disinterest in the customer's problem. Teach employees how that tone of voice sounds.
And caution them that you'll audit and critique phone responses periodically. Emphasize that workers who can't learn how to interface smoothly with the buying public will be reassigned or terminated.
Combat shamelessness by removing the TV from customer and employee lounges, thus eliminating the subtle but persistent influence of the shamelessness purveyors we call tabloid talk show hosts. When TV displays such an endless procession of pathetically shameless people, it's time to turn it off.
After all, preaching accountability is counterproductive when you're competing with the breed of shamelessness the talkmeisters market. Dead silence is healthier than listening to that drivel.