This article first appeared in Revista Capital on November 29, 2019.
I think that like everyone else, my mood has been affected by the “social outburst”. There are days when I wake up positive and think that what is happening is necessary to achieve a society that cares about the whole and not just a few. On the other hand, there are days when I am more pessimistic when I see that a few vandals (probably financed by drug traffickers) are burning Chile, violating the rule of law, public order, and leaving us practically in a law of the jungle.
Security will be the key to advancing the demands of the citizenry. However, at this point, there is little we can do on our own, individually, and we must wait for the government to act. It is for this reason that I am going to focus my reflection on what we can do from the business world, regarding the first point, because if we start to act now the change can come faster and is easier to implement than any law or change in the Constitution.
First of all, I think it is important to recognize that there is a crisis of confidence and that is one of the reasons why today we have millions of angry Chileans, millions of Chileans without faith in the system or confidence in the companies. I know that many will disagree with me and will say that we should not be self-flagellants, since companies are the main cause of Chile’s growth, and I agree, the private sector has been the basis of growth in recent years, with companies that have even internationalized, being a source of pride for our country, but we must recognize that, just as we have grown, part of the business community has stopped questioning HOW to achieve results.
I am not going to refer to the cases of collusion or corruption since that is not abuse but the crime with all its letters, but I do want to refer to the abuses of the day to day and that is part of what has caused this great “explosion”. For you to understand me well and to be concrete, I want to give some daily examples of a small survey I informally made among my acquaintances, which exposed the following abuses: allowing the indebtedness of people who have no way to pay, call centers that leave you waiting endless minutes and finally you give up with the claim; insurance companies that process refunds for months, contracts with abusive clauses, calls to sell anything at unusual hours and that keep calling you even if you say you do not want the product or service; how easy it is to hire a service and how difficult it is to cancel it; different treatment depending on who the customer is, contracts with little transparency or with excessive fine print, excessive interest, among others.
The above list is only a part of the abuses for clients since towards workers or suppliers we can find other examples such as promotion by contact (the well-known pituto), work in undignified conditions, verbal abuse to subordinates, excessive bureaucracy, tailor-made bids, purchase orders that take months to be approved, to name a few.
In my experience, I can assure you that none of these practices are gestated in the board of directors and that none of them meet to plan how to abuse the system. However, the cause is not in talking about it, it is in NOT talking about it, in not thinking about HOW we are doing it. In focusing month after month on sales, EBITDA, and cost KPIs, and not worrying about what actions the company’s employees had to take to get there. Many times in those same goals, there are implicit thousands of abuses that will have to be committed, and those who end up committing them are surely the middle management of the company and its employees.
Signals are more important than ever and the boards of directors have to be part of the solution to this “social explosion” and, as I said before, the business community can implement policies that have immediate benefits. In this month, when we are in the budget season, let’s see from now on, what are the goals that we are going to demand next year, and I sincerely hope that we will be able to add many KPIs, which speak more about HOW and not only about WHAT.
By Susana Sierra