Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Biggest Customer Service Blunders .

While howls of protest over poor customer service continue to be heard worldwide, there remain some businesses that manage to consistently deliver superior customer service year in and year out. 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.


Businesses of all kinds invest huge amounts of money in training programmes that do not — and simply cannot — work. The function of such training is to identify the behaviours workers are supposed to engage in, and then coax, bully or legislate these behaviours into the workplace. At best, this is almost always a recipe for conduct that feels mechanised and insincere; at worst, it intensifies employee resentment and cynicism. Instead of dictating what your employees should be doing to delight customers, the better approach is to give your workers opportunities to brainstorm their own ideas for delivering delight. Your 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.


Businesses looking for ways to motivate their workers are almost always looking in the wrong places. Employee cynicism is the direct product of an organisation’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.


Businesses often use surveys and other feedback mechanisms to get to the root 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 companies, 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.


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.

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