No Room for the ‘Reverse Onus” with technology today

By Jeff Bowman

Embracing technology may be a little more difficult for some than others, I offer myself up a living proof, owning a phone that performs functions I’ve never even heard of.

Perhaps it is age, maybe stubbornness, or could it be that not adapting to technology offers an excuse to take advantage of situations that may arise in business. I have been told over and over again that ignorance is no excuse, so why is it that large corporations with the tools and resources at hand continue in the “do as we say, not as we do” mode of business operations?

Here in Canada we recently had a mail strike, which hurt a great number of small business, especially in the area of collections. Small business owners may not have adapted to online billing and payment, or want the added expense of accepting credit card fees attached to the use of credit cards for payment.

Large businesses have, for the most part, been quick to put in place methods of money collection and invoice payment in order to decrease the days outstanding on accounts. This is smart business. The question I have is why do some companies still operate from the ‘dark side” and utilize the dreaded “reverse onus”?

Reverse onus is not some maneuver from skateboarding or free style skiing, but a method of deflecting the fault from a company position to a consumer position. I recently received two Sears invoices within a matter of days.  The first of course was one that was posted right before the mail strike and was never delivered.

The second one was the most recent month, complete with the outstanding balance and interest on the overdue balance. I wasn’t about to pay the interest, especially at an annual rate of 29%. When they were called, the customer service department (who is never part of the decision-making process but is expected to take the brunt of customer anger) responded that the onus was on us to pay our balance by alternative methods, such as at the store or online.

The “reverse onus”, is est defined by the ill-considered Rogers, “do nothing and get billed” tactic from years before. I immediately responding “why isn’t the onus on you to change your billing procedure to make customers aware of what they owe in response to the mail strike.  You could send an e-mail, or use the idle billing staff to make reminder calls, even automated calls”  Dead silence on the other end.  “The interest charge has been removed, as a onetime favour in this instance”, was the response I received moments later.

A favour? Our main job as business owners is to ensure that we operate and serve our clients in a way that makes it easy and comfortable to do business with us.  It can be a huge competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace.

Technology works for both the customer and the business, and ignorance is not an excuse for reverse onus. Obstacles to continuing the business processes should be recognized, and removed in a common-sense fashion. That’s just good business!

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Filed under Communications, Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Sales

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