Over-promise, under-deliver


In customer service, the principle used to be “under-promise and over-deliver,” meaning, marketers deliberately downplayed their company’s capabilities to lower customer expectations. The idea was to stage a scenario in which the supplier would appear to have gone the extra mile, impressing the client and ensuring satisfaction and a repeat transaction.

While this marketing principle has long been discarded, it’s still a better strategy than over-promising and under-delivering. Yet, the latter was exactly what happened at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and its mother agency, the Department of Transportation, as regards driver’s license cards.

In August last year, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade told senators new driver’s licenses with a longer, five-year validity – as promised by the President in his first State of the Nation Address earlier – would be available before that year ended.

It took exactly 12 months before Tugade could make good on that promise. Still, Tugade fell short of his own hype on Tuesday when he announced that the LTO would begin the rollout of new license cards. Same-day processing applies only to those who renew or get new driver’s licenses starting this week.

Not so for those who applied but failed to be given license cards last year, which numbered 4.4 million, according to a report by the Commission on Audit (COA).

The poor ones who had queued up for, paid for, and waited (for months) for their license cards had to be turned away, told they wouldn’t get their cards this week or this month, as the backlog would have to be cleared by batches.

At the LTO satellite office in a Manila shopping mall, motorists who believed in Tugade’s promises were told to wait for the schedule of release – in the news, from the very same news outfits that fell for Tugade’s rollout hype.

This is probably why the Communications function was taken out of the Department of Transportation. Tugade’s department has done such a poor job of communicating its affairs that the LTO would rather waste the time of motorists who are forced to keep on coming back to its branches, hoping their licenses had been printed.

Yet transport officials had the temerity to pat themselves on the back, supposedly for “finally finding the solution to the issue of driver’s licenses, which has been hounding the agency for a long time.”

The driver’s license issue is actually more of a showcase of gross inefficiency in the government procurement system rather than the transport department’s problem-solving skills.

The 2016 COA report on the Transportation department blames the “extended procurement process” for the shortage and non-issuance of license cards, which affected 4.4 million motorists.

The LTO was unable to call for a bidding for 6 million, five-year licenses until January 2017, which meant that the contract was not sealed until April, three months later. The suppliers’ commitment was to deliver the goods in 90 days. September is approaching and the LTO’s 4.4-million backlog hasn’t been cleared.

Perhaps this was because the LTO, in the interim, took time to bid out a smaller contract for 3 million licenses valid for three years in November 2016, which it wasn’t able to sign until February 2017.

It’s laughable that the LTO – with its citizen’s charter and all – is getting customer service advice from COA. It doesn’t matter that quantity and quality targets were met, COA told the LTO. “[C]lient satisfaction is not only dependent on these indicators, but foremost is the receipt of the DL (driver’s license) card,” the audit report said.

COA also told the LTO to speed up the procurement and distribution of license cards; in fact the latter should be done immediately after the fees are paid.

The Transport department should forego of the hype and be honest to its paying clientele. It cannot be patting itself on the back for a job it was supposed to do months ago.


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