Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Newspaper and Advocacy

This isn't a post about Bil "per se" but has to do with advocacy.

We've learned (I hope we have anyway) some tricks in the years of having to advocate for Bil and another family member, and hope the skills we learned make the below have a good outcome.  So thank you, Bil, for indirectly helping your mother.

I've written before about my mother in law, Bil's mother and caretaker.  She is in her 80's and suffers some mobility problems from some falls, and from a minor stroke she had almost three years ago (minor, in comparison to what might have been.) 

One thing my mother in law enjoys is her morning paper. But this has become an ordeal for her.  She has been having Bil go out and get it for her.  But finding the paper for Bil is like a daily scavenger hunt.  Will it be in the bushes?  On the driveway? Wet and unreadable? During the winter, will it be in a snowbank?  Or will it be somewhere mysterious, to be found weeks later?  He really wasn't up to the task, she sure wasn't and...for a dying industry to treat a 40 year subscriber that way,  to me was Just Plain Wrong.

My mother in law is a strong woman but more and more appreciates help.    She called the 800 number (this sure implies their customer service is outsourced somewhere doesn't it) and was assured, and assured, and assured, that the paper would be delivered properly.  All my mother in law wanted was for the paper to be put on a shelf under the mailbox, which would have been quite reachable by any deliveryperson without leaving the comfort of their vehicle.  Anyway, this 800 number gave no resolution.  I sure would like to know where she was calling?  Was it even in the U.S.?

Anyway, this Friday we visited and for whatever reason I decided I needed to do something so she could enjoy her paper.  I went to the paper (she said it was picked up by Bil that morning but the date was from over two weeks before!), got a feel for what the email addresses were like, and decided (although they didn't give his email address) to email the publisher and the VP of Sales.  I stated my case simply, just the facts, without any anger (this, we've learned, is the most effective way) and told them what I wanted the resolution to be-daily delivery onto that shelf.  And, I gave my full name, address and phone number also as the daughter in law who wanted to be advised of the resolution.

It was about 5:30 pm when I emailed.

I guessed their email addresses right.  The emails didn't bounce back.  I went and ate supper.

Within an hour the publisher emailed me back and copied several people.  Within the next few hours I got two other emails.  Then Saturday a rep called my mother in law and spoke to her, apologized, said the paper would be delivered per our request, on the shelf under the mailbox.  When I got home yesterday there was a phone message from the same woman, and an email from one of the earlier people (I had answered each email, thanking them kindly for their help).

It sure stirred up a little hornets nest, didn't it.  And if the papers keep coming in the bushes and in winter snowbanks, guess who will get a followup.

I do hope no other of their elderly subscribers are going through what my mother in law did.

So, again, some of the ways of advocacy we have learned came through.
Keep your temper (so hard to do sometimes!), be objective.
Be Prepared with the Facts
State them simply, do not show anger, do not ever be sarcastic.  Remember you are dealing with people (as hard as that can be sometimes especially when people get carried away with being bureaucrats.)
State the resolution you want
If you get results, always thank the people involved who help.


To the newpaper I would say this:
Dear publisher, I appreciate you working to get this resolved.  I hope it is resolved, and that your folks carry through on what they have promised my mother in law.  She deserves service.  She's been a loyal customer for over 40 years! And it is too bad someone had to go to the "head honcho" to get that service.
I appreciate you responding to me so promptly.  But it is obvious you are outsourcing services.  If you are doing it to save money, I'd like to suggest that you take a good look at what you are doing.  You may not be saving money if your service is driving customers away.
Those customers won't be back.  My young adult son wouldn't pick up a paper to read it if he was dying of boredom.  So you really need to keep the customer base you have.

I hope you do.

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