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Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo - Disengaged Employees in the Digital Age
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Wednesday, 04 June 2014 04:47

Disengaged Employees in the Digital Age Featured

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Dr. Ade (not real name) was looking forward to his trip to Barcelona, Spain. He was one of a handful of medical consultants from his country invited to attend one of the leading conferences in his specialty. Hundreds of delegates from tens of countries would be attending.

In the true African tradition, Dr. Ade commissioned a painting to be made. He wanted to present this as a gift from the Nigerian team to the US-based organisers. On receiving the painting, he was confident it was a befitting gift.

He and a colleague got to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos in good time. Since it was a fragile object, he wrapped it at the airport and proceeded to the airline’s check-in counter. He was flying from Lagos through Madrid to Barcelona.

At the counter, the wrapped painting was accepted and labelled as fragile. Dr. Ade collected his boarding pass and proceeded to the departure gate in preparation for boarding.

It was an uneventful flight and about 11 hours later, he got to Barcelona. When he went to retrieve his baggage, he received a shocker. The painting had been damaged and broken into several places!
Damaged Baggage Photo:
Damaged Painting at Barcelona Airport (Source: www.andyemegbo.com)

Damaged Baggage Photo: Damaged Painting at Barcelona Airport (Source: www.andyemegbo.com)

Dr. Ade was in distress! It was such as an expensive painting and besides, he was planning to present it the next day. Surely this could not be real.

He approached the airline’s desk at the Barcelona airport and that’s when things went really bizarre.

He met a female customer agent of Asian descent – let’s call her Agent IBx. That ordinarily should not be a problem. When Dr. Ade explained that his fragile item had been damaged, the responses he received were unbelievable.
Damaged BaggagePhoto: Damaged Painting at Barcelona Airport (Source: www.andyemegbo.com)

Damaged Baggage Photo: Damaged Painting at Barcelona Airport (Source: www.andyemegbo.com)

First, in a condescending voice she told him to his face that it was “his fault because the painting should have been wrapped in cardboard paper”. Dr Ade reminded her that “since the airline’s team in Lagos accepted the painting and made no request to re-wrap the item, this comment could not be correct. The onus was on the airline to have rejected the painting".

Agent IBx could not be bothered. She launched into another counter offensive, “Do you want me to do a report” and she started typing into the computer system in front of her? At this point, Dr. Ade asked to see the supervisor on duty. Agent IBx smiled wryly and said, “My supervisor is in a meeting. If you like, you can wait for her”. She declared that there were no other senior officers around that he could see.

That was news to me – for I had been a passive but interested bystander all through the episode for several reasons. I had come on the same flight with Lagos to Madrid with Dr. Ade even though we used different connecting flights to Barcelona. Dr Ade taught me during my orthopaedic surgery posting at the Obafemi Awolowo University over 11 years ago.

At that time he was a senior registrar in the department. He had incredible patience with students. He would teach for hours and hours even when it was not convenient. He went out of his way to ensure that we understood what we were trying to learn. He was and still is a complete gentleman. He was a team player and a good role model for other doctors. So you can imagine my joy when I reconnected with him and another colleague as we arrived Madrid.

Now back to Agent IBx

Ever the patient one, Dr. Ade asked what would be done. All through this time, Agent IBx did not move an inch from her seat. While he asked that she should examine the damaged painting, she brushed it aside. In her words, she has seen it. I wondered what she has seen when the bulk of the damaged parts were out of her line of sight.

To make matters worse, she went to say, “It is not my problem. It is your problem”. When Dr. Ade asked why she spoke so rudely and combatively, she replied, “I don’t care. I was not the one that damaged your luggage. I was not the one who received the painting in Lagos. It’s your fault you should have wrapped it better. My duty is to simply send a report. Do you want me to make a report or not?” She also berated Dr. Ade for not returning her greeting.

Damaged BaggagePhoto: Damaged Painting at Barcelona Airport (Source: www.andyemegbo.com)

Appalled, I turned to the two agents besides Agent IBx – all through this exchange they whispered to themselves, made jokes and laughed while looking towards our direction. It is possible that was coincidental. I walked over to them and asked to see their supervisor. I was told that the supervisor was not around (different from what Agent IBx said).

Damaged BaggagePhoto: Damaged Painting at Barcelona Airport (Source: www.andyemegbo.com)

At the point I had had enough

I find it hard to believe that this is the way the airline’s representatives are trained to respond to such an issue.

In this age and time, when sending a tweet to the airline’s Twitter handle, one gets a response in less than one minute, Agent IBx and her kind should not be customer-facing.

Why should an employee go out of her way to ensure that her organisation loses customers just to prove a point and win an argument? No one deserves to be attended to by “an employee from hell”. This level of disconnection and disengagement of the airline’s Barcelona team is shameful and a great disservice to the brand. Witnessing the charade were a number of delegates to the conference.

The team at the airport refused to take ownership of Dr. Ade’s complaint. Their attitude reminds me of Ms Irving in Dave Carroll’s United Breaks Guitars video – “pass the buck, don’t ask me attitude” and “sorry, sorry, your claim can go nowhere”.

I have been teaching about "using social media for profitable employee engagement" for a while now. Such disconnected and disengaged employees have no place in any organisation in this digital age.

Are your employees becoming more of liabilities?

Now's Here is The 411?
I decided to take up this issue via twitter.Yesterday, I sent a series of tweets to the airline. Here are some screenshots of our conversation:

Tweet-Complaints

 Photo: Screenshot of My Tweet Conversations (Source: Twitter)

Tweet-Complaints Photo: Screenshot of My Tweet Conversations (Source: Twitter)

Tweet-Complaints

 Photo: Screenshot of My Tweet Conversations (Source: Twitter)


Tweet-Complaints

 Photo: Screenshot of My Tweet Conversations (Source: Twitter)

Complaint Screenshot

Photo:
Screenshot taken after I submitted an online complaints via the Claims page a few minutes ago.

I will keep you informed of how this evolves.

P.S: This article was published in the 4th of June 2014 edition of the Punch Newspapers.
 

 

 

Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo

                          Web Contact

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