Ukraine vs US – customer service

As of a few hours ago, it’s great to be back in Lviv, My first long vacation in years has ended, and I can’t wait to get to the office tomorrow. I spent some time in the US, and some time getting customer service, both in person and over the phone.

In the United States, there is over employment plus a huge influx of low-skilled migrats. The people with whom you often interact, unfortunately, are often unintelligent. It becomes obvious when you give them some abstraction, or ask them to generalize the broader policy. They either can’t do it well, or can’t do it at all. They follow a script, which is either the extent of their ability, or the extent of their training. It can be frustration. American businesses, facing an over-employed workforce, have had to create processes for everything so that they can 1) take advantage of the lower skilled labor that’s available, and importantly, 2) squeeze out of them $8.49/hour worth of productivity (US average minimum wage).

The plus side of this is that some of the processes are amazingly fast and efficient. Returning a rental car was literally less than a minute of interaction with the staff. That’s like magic.

In Ukraine, by contrast, a lower trust society, returning a car was a hour long process. They gave it a mechanical check prior to returning your documents. Perhaps things have improved since I rented a car four years ago, but the contrast exists elsewhere too. Businesses are less likely to open on time, especially outside of Kyiv. They may not be able to give you exact change. You may be expected to understand that you can’t be helped today because someone’s mother is sick and they had to stay home and take care of their parent until such-and-such a relative arrives from such-and-such a village.

The plus side of Ukraine, at least for visitors, is the under employment. When was the last time a McDonalds cashier delighted you with a witty quip? You can call a business and explain some nuance, and they’ll often understand you and react appropriately or explain something, or make a personalized adjustment. It’s nice.

And for some reason banks are awful experiences in both Ukraine and the U.S.