This is a conversation I’ve been mulling on lately. The idea actually was seeded from an issue I’ve had at work my entire career. I’m in corporate training, and a wall I have bashed against many, many times is the “incentive issue.”
To give an example I think most people have experienced – you call customer service for a company who provides you with a service (electricity, gas, internet, water, etc.). They will not listen to your issue until they have found you in the system. They keep having these long pauses of silence. They say they are scheduling a technician to come and address the issue and…. long, long silence.
On the other end the customer service call center manager probably is pissed off too. Why do customers keep complaining about bad service? WHY ARE YOU UNHAPPY?!?
Because the call representatives are given bad incentives. They are told to prioritize chatting instead of being able to silently search for solutions. They have to ask about the weather and your kids when they are trying to read a resource to see if it’s the right solution. It’s hard. Every call center I have ever worked with has a metric where they watch the time-on-hold or time-of-silence a call representative has and holds it against them. Whether they use percentage or total time…. representatives are told NOT to put a customer on hold or to work silently.
This means a representative can’t necessarily ask for a second opinion. They can’t take a few minutes to write up the issue so they get “high marks” on their ticket creation. Unless they do it while trying to be friendly to the customer. So they pad their call. So they might ask the customer to repeat the basic steps (oh and by the way, 10% of the time the basics fix it on the call anyway so it isn’t actually JUST wasting time). If the page to request a technician just won’t load – too bad. 10+ years I’ve watched screens as well as listened to audio and I’ve seen it. I’ve seen managers who put representatives on a “improvement plan” (whatever the company calls it) for long silence despite seeing on the recorded screen that the person was waiting for a page to load – something the representative has zero control over. So representatives bullshit. They make shit up to cover silence. They meet the requirements their manager tells them to meet, even though it just pisses the customers off. Even though it fails to achieve the actual goal the managers claim to try to be solving.
So what does this long rant have to do with voters? Well, how are we incentivizing our politicians? Who do we actually vote for? This is one place where I think both sides might be near-equally guilty (or at least every time I think it’s tilting more to one side, the other side pulls the same kind of stupid shit). WE tell our politicians not to compromise. And by that I mean, when we say, “I won’t vote for So-and-So because I believe too strongly in XYZ issue and they don’t have a no-compromise stand on it” – especially in primaries WE are the ones telling them not to compromise. We elect the people who uphold such-and-such issue as more important than compromise. And then we act surprised when these same politicians can’t compromise.
Personally, I think we need to start asking our representatives “do you consider ‘compromise’ a four-letter word?” and if they say yes, we refuse to elect them (regardless of party or affiliation). We need to stop incentivizing extreme stances. We need to vote for people who will sometime prevaricate on an issue because it’s complicated, “I would need to look at the details of the bill addressing that before I say whether I would support it or not” should be a phrase where we nod and appreciate their diligence.
WE, the voters, need to demand compromisers with our votes. WE need to demand that our representatives bend towards the middle instead of trying to always pull the entire discussion to one side or the other. WE need to look at how we are incentivizing our own extremes and check ourselves. I have things I feel very strongly about, but you know what I’m wrestling with? I might not have the one-and-only-most-blessed opinion. I might even be, *gasp* wrong. And I want a representative who is willing to consider this as well because maybe someone else came up with a solution that more people can accept and if it moves us in the right direction (which is what I want to incentivize) then it’s better than trying to brow-beat everyone into MY solution.