5 Biggest Customer Service Blunders Of All Time
While howls of protest over
poor customer service continue to fill the air, there remain
some businesses that manage to consistently deliver superior
customer service year in and year out. These are the places
where turbo-charged employees pursue customer delight with a
passion, places that ignite a flashpoint of contagious
enthusiasm in employees and customers alike. Foremost among
the lessons to be learned from such flashpoint businesses
are the blunders to avoid—those fatal mistakes that trip up
just about everybody else.
First Blunder: making customer service a training issue.
Businesses of all kinds invest huge amounts in training
programs that do not—and simply cannot—work. The function of
such training is to identify the behaviors workers are
supposed to engage in, and then coax, bully, or legislate
these behaviors into the workplace. At best, this is almost
always a recipe for conduct that feels mechanized and
insincere; at worst, it intensifies worker resentment and
Instead of dictating what workers should be doing to delight
customers, the better approach is to give workers
opportunities to brainstorm their own ideas for delivering
delight. Management’s role then becomes to help employees
implement these ideas, and to allow workers to savor the
motivational effect of the positive feedback that ensues
from delighted customers. This level of employee ownership
and involvement is a key cultural characteristic of
virtually all flashpoint businesses.
Second Blunder: blaming poor service on employee
Businesses looking for ways to motivate their workers are
almost always looking in the wrong places. Employee cynicism
is the direct product of an organization’s visible
preoccupation with self-interest above all else—a purely
internal focus. The focus in flashpoint businesses is
directed outward, toward the interests of customers and the
community at large. This shift in cultural focus changes the
way the business operates at all levels.
The reality in most business settings is that employees are
demotivated because they can’t deliver delight. The existing
policies and procedures make it impossible. Instead of
“fixing” their employees, flashpoint business set out to
build a culture that unblocks them. Workers are encouraged
to identify operational obstacles to customer delight, and
participate in finding ways around them.
Third Blunder: using customer feedback to uncover what’s
Businesses often use surveys and other feedback mechanisms
to get to the causes of customer problems and complaints.
Employees come to dread these measurement and data-gathering
efforts, since they so often lead to what feels like
witch-hunts for employee scapegoats, formal exercises in
finger-pointing and the assigning of blame. Flashpoint
businesses use customer feedback very differently. In these
organizations the object is to uncover everything that’s
going right. Managers are forever on the lookout for "hero
stories" - examples of employees going the extra mile to
deliver delight. Such feedback becomes the basis for ongoing
recognition and celebration. Employees see themselves as
winners on a winning team, because in their workplace
there’s always some new "win" being celebrated.
Fourth Blunder: reserving top recognition for splashy
It happens all the time: something goes terribly wrong in a
customer order or transaction, and a dedicated employee goes
to tremendous lengths to make things right. The delighted
customer brings this employee’s wonderful recovery to
management’s attention, and the employee receives special
recognition for his or her efforts. This is a blunder?
It is when such recoveries are the primary—if not the
only—catalysts for employee recognition. In such a culture,
foul-ups become almost a good thing from the workers’ point
of view. By creating opportunities for splashy recoveries,
foul-ups represent the only chance employees have to feel
appreciated on the job. Attempts to correct operational
problems won’t win much support if employees see these
problems as their only opportunity to shine.
Flashpoint businesses celebrate splashy recoveries, of
course—but they’re also careful to uncover and celebrate
employee efforts to delight customers where no mistakes or
problems were involved. This makes it easier to get workers
participating in efforts to permanently eliminate the
sources of problems at the systems level.
Fifth Blunder: competing on price.
It’s one of the most common (and most costly) mistakes in
business. Price becomes the deciding factor in purchasing
decisions only when everything else is equal—and everything
else is almost never equal. Businesses compete on the
perception of value, and this includes more than price. It’s
shaped by the total customer experience—and aspects such as
“helpfulness,” “friendliness,” and “the personal touch”
often give the competitive advantage to businesses that
actually charge slightly more for their basic goods and
Those businesses that deliver a superior total experience
from the inside out (that is, as a product of a strongly
customer-focused culture) are typically those that enjoy a
long-term competitive advantage—along with virtual immunity
from the kinds of headaches that plague everybody else.
Customer-focus consultant Paul Levesque’s latest book is
Customer Service From The Inside Out Made Easy (Entrepreneur
Levesque. All Rights Reserved.
Paul Levesque is available for speaking engagements
Paul Levesque has more than 20 years' experience as an
international customer-service consultant. He has helped
hundreds of corporate and small business clients become
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