Whenever I call my bank, no one calls me back. I have actually driven to the bank and spoken to the manager in person. He profusely apologizes and promises it won’t happen again. Then of course it does. The latest round of unreturned calls and voicemails to inquire about unrecognized charges on a statement began two weeks before I actually got through to someone on the phone. I was angry and let him know it. He reacted by saying “I’ve called you back repeatedly.” I said, “That is simply not true and you know it. My caller ID and voicemail are working.” Silence.
Finally, he said, “Ms. Friedman, I apologize for the inconvenience but as the customer relationship manager, I’m here to help you.” I almost fell off my chair. Customer relationship manager? Was this a joke? We have no relationship and clearly he wasn’t doing much to manage this one. Do organizations really think titles will be so impressive that they’ll influence our way of thinking?
Titles used to be easy to understand. Doctor. Lawyer. Journalist. Manager. Waiter. Today, many seem more creative and attention-grabbing. When CareerBuilder asked readers to share their unusual job titles, they heard from a “chief wiggle eye gluer,” a “director of chaos” and a “head worm wrangler.” I’m not sure what all of those people actually do for a living but the “marble lady” who wrote in said she gives presentations about marbles. I got that.
People want to stand out. I’m guilty, too. Though my official title is president of Karen Friedman Enterprises, my business cards say chief improvement officer because that’s really what we do — we help people improve the way they communicate. Clever? Perhaps. More memorable than president? Absolutely.
The problem occurs when people craft titles that are not really synonymous with what they do. Let’s go back to the bank associate. He doesn’t really manage customer relationships. He defends his actions, so a more suitable title for him might be bank fee defender. Human resource professionals have become talent development managers and janitors have become sanitation engineers. Then there is the ambiguous title of “solutions manager.” What solutions? Aren’t most companies in business to provide solutions?
There are the longer, complicated titles like “refinery processing control accounting manager” or “associate director of strategic forecasting for antibacterial and antifungal diseases.” These titles provide no clue to what you actually do for a living. I wonder if titles reflect the way a person communicates. While on the phone trying to change an airline ticket, the “reservation and transportation ticket agent” asked me what “revenue stream” I wanted to pay with. Excuse me, I asked? She was referring to the credit card I wanted to use.
This brings me back once again to my bank customer relationship manager. As we tried to get to the bottom of the fee issue, he explained that my previous account wasn’t “categorized as a performance account with secondary formal protection” and assured me he would “reach out to his business segmentation team and have them tag the accounts appropriately.” Sure, whatever you say.
As I was writing this column, my dad called. He and my mom, who volunteer at a South Florida hospital, said the gobbley-gook has spilled over into office hallways as well. Dad complained that people can no longer find the self-explanatory Office of Medical Records, which had been changed to HIM which stands for Health Information Management. However, the new sign didn’t clearly explain that these departments were one and the same. My dad joked with visitors that if they couldn’t find HIM, they should look for HER, which he dubbed “help eliminate rhetoric.”
Personally, I’m exhausted trying to decipher all of this grandiose language. And by the way, the phone just rang. To my surprise, it was my banking relationship manager. He said he was trying to get to the bottom of my problem, but he didn’t understand what I meant by “unrecognized charges.” As my teenage son would quip, “My bad.” I’ll try to be clearer next time.