priority level

March 25, 2009

Bad Customer Service – Where Does the Fault Lie?

I’m going to be all contentious here – are you ready?

Bad customer service is almost never the fault of the person who gives it. Period.

When we are at the blunt end of bad service as a customer, we immediately feel that it’s the one facing us (or in an increasingly virtual world, on the other end of some sort of line or another), who’s at fault.

Yet, I’m pretty sure that most people who go to work each day want to feel that they have done a great job. Trouble is, their environment isn’t always right.

So, what does that mean? Well, let me share with you 5 top line reasons why the obvious culprit in not the individual in your line of fire, the person right in front of you:-

1. The Wrong Person

You see, when organizations recruit customer ‘facing’ personnel, they need to be very definitely choosing those who like interacting with others.

So often, what I call ‘people-people’ don’t get selected because they can come across as a bit forward at interview, and that can irritate the selection team.

This is wrong.

People-people are outward and love interacting. So, when selection teams recruit, sometimes the wrong person gets put in front of you because the wrong choices were made, often for the wrong reasons.

2. The Wrong Priorities 1

Customers aren’t quite the priority the organization says they are.

Of course every organization on the planet ‘says’ that the customers is ‘the most important person’ (I actually disagree – see 4. below) – and then they don’t walk their talk. A customer is only the priority level that the sharp-end management gives it.

So they go giving their supposedly customer focused employees a ton of other jobs to do so they make best (financial) use of them.

Where is the logic of that?

3. The Wrong Priorities 2

Organizations love processes!

It’s what employs a whole bunch of people and then, with all that ‘delighting customers’ they are supposed to be doing, they lumber their people with audits and stock control and a multitude of non-customer aligned activities that support who?

Probably the bean counters and auditors who provide the processes in the first place. The customer front line employees have to comply, or they get into trouble – or focus on customers.

Well, we know what they are going to do, aren’t they.

4. The Wrong Focus

Organizations upset their people without even trying.

They fail to recognize and act on some of the most basic standards that any employee might expect.

Pay gets botched and/or paid late; workwear is always ‘delayed’; people don’t say ‘thank you’; personal ambition isn’t on the radar; holidays get moved.

None of this helps a customer facing employee be at their very best when they need to be.

5. The Wrong Managers

More and more these days, manager appointments are being dumbed down to a pretty low denominator.

Managers are given roles that don’t suit them and they don’t have adequate people skills to make the best of the people they have; nor appreciate the criteria required to get the right fit.

Add to that where managers don’t show they care about their people because their communication skills are lacking and you have the absolute recipe for trouble.

Can you see the reasons why it’s pretty unlikely that customer facing employees are rarely where the fault for failure lies?

If you’re a manager yourself, what do you need to change in the way you run your team; department or business. What do you not know about how the sharp-end works. And, when will you find out about it.

Or maybe you are part of the problem, not the solution?

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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