Well, for me the answer to the question asked in the title is clear, I believe that the short term should always be sacrificed for long term benefits. Sometimes, though, businessmen think more about what they can do today that will benefit the coming days, rather than what would be helpful for the company a year or 5 years down the road. This is, in my opinion, quite short sighted.
I got thinking about this because of John’s excellent article about Customer Service in the Philippines, and also Tina’s comment on that post, saying that it was a training problem that caused some of these Customer Service problems to kick in. I couldn’t agree with John or Tina more. They are both right on target. But, for many of our readers, I believe it is possible that they don’t know why this happens the way it does in the Philippines.
When it comes to jobs like store clerks and such, did you know that the employees in those types of jobs are almost exclusively hired on a 6 month (or less) contract? The reason for this is because under Philippine labor laws, any employee who works 6 months or less is not considered a “regular” employee. If you get a job where you are classified as a regular employee a lot of extra benefits kick in. For regular employees, the employer must provide health insurance (PhilHealth), SSS (Social Security System), Pag-Ibig (a housing benefit) and other such benefits. Basically, I guess that it adds probably at least 50% to the normal cost of a salary.
So, the employer has a choice, he can hire people who will work for 6 months or less, and pay them a daily salary, or he can hire them on as a regular employee and pay them the daily salary plus additional benefits that will increase his out of pocket costs by about another 50%. For most employers here, the choice is clear. It’s 6 months maximum term of employment.
Now, let me be clear, I am talking about jobs at the supermarket, flipping burgers, that kind of thing. When it comes to highly skilled people like engineers, managers and such, those people are generally hired for the longer term.
So, as John said in his article, customer service here is indeed poor. As Tina said in her comment, it is largely due to a lack of training. The people working in the stores genuinely want to help you, but often times they simply don’t know what to do, or how to help you. Why doesn’t management train these people to do it right? Well, think about it. To really train somebody well, it could take 3 or 4 months. I am not talking about 3 or 4 months of doing nothing but training, but basically training while they are on the job. There are so many different situations that would need to be taught to the employee that several months would be required before they would really be a good practitioner of customer service. Well, if it took 4 months, and the person was only going to be working for 6 months, I guess the management figures that it is a waste of time. That, in my opinion is short term thinking.
So, what would be a good solution for this? Well, I think I have one. Firstly, for an employer who wants a well trained staff – forget about the 6 month contract. Hire these people on as regular, permanent employees. This way, they can gain years of experience, good training, and offer assistance to the customers. I know that I prefer to shop at places where I am treated well, and assisted in a way that I like. What about the additional costs to the employer? Pay them! For one thing, if the employer wants to stay within his budget, simply go with a smaller staff. There are way too many people working in the stores now anyway. There are lots of employees, but none of them know how to really offer customer service! Cut the staff a little bit, train those who are remaining, and watch the customers flock in.
In a lot of cases, the stores here are full of people who don’t even know about the products they are selling! They don’t know if their store carries certain items or not, because they have not been around long enough to know.
I believe that making a move to permanent employment would serve a two-fold benefit in the Philippines. First, and most obviously, it will provide for better customer service in the stores. More importantly, I believe it would lead to a more stable society in this country, a place where earnings could increase a bit and people will be happier. Imagine always knowing that your job is almost over and you will be looking for another job soon. Providing a better sense of stability, and a better wage for the workers can only have a positive effect on society in general.
What do you think?