Return on Behavior Magazine
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Customer Experience

November 24th, 2010

Poor customer service, there is no excuse

no excuse for bad customer service

Businesses fail because of two main causes – they can’t generate enough sales or they are poor at customer service. The inability to generate sales can be influenced by many human, physical and environmental circumstances; but poor customer service is a human issue, full-stop.

I have had 4 occasions over the past week where I have personally experienced bad customer service. Let me briefly touch on two.

Situation one
We had run out of products from one of our suppliers due to an unexpected large order. It was Friday and I wanted to resupply before the weekend.

When I phoned the overseas supplier I discovered all the team were off on a conference. The one person left to “hold down the fort” couldn’t supply me as he was not too sure of my “arrangement”. Makes you wonder why he was left back at home base.

I finally tracked down the hotel the conference was at (San Diego by the way!) and eventually got hold of the manager who fixed the situation.

Situation two

My oven door was broken. I got the local service representative to call around. The oven door required three small bolts. He said he would have to order them. That was the last I saw of him. Another phone call, he advised he couldn’t track down the model number, but was trying; never heard another thing.

Where too from here? I know I’ll call the local agent. They directed me back to the service agent. I held my ground, saying, “The agent was as useless as tits on the side of a piece of bacon, can I buy the parts from them?” “No you can’t”, was the reply.

In frustration, I then went to the head agent in Australia. What a difference. The parts were in the evening mail at no charge.

Naturally I have précised the above experiences. Believe me; in both cases the phone calls, the frustrations, the waste of personal time was akin to pull the eye teeth out of a rattlesnake.

What’s the one thing that sticks out here? It’s INITIATIVE

In the case of my supplier, the man in charge could have said, “Rob, all the team are at a conference, you are a valued customer, I want to help. How about we solve the immediate problem by supplying you with enough to get you by over the weekend – we can sort out costs and final numbers next week when the conference goers return.”

In the second situation, what about, “We appreciate you buying a St George oven. It is not our policy to deal direct with the public as we do have service channels, however, owing to your difficulty with our appointed agent(s) we will look after you in this instance.”
I believe service culture, like all organisational culture, is driven from the top. When I meet bad service I immediately draw conclusions about the top management team – if the frontline is like this, what’s the brains thrust like?

In most cases I think management does understand the value of exceptional customer service. The problem is they haven’t empowered their frontline troops to deliver it, or been diligent in hiring people who are customer service orientated.

Retail stores and fast food franchises are particularly bad. I’m constantly amazed at the bimbos who work behind some of these counters. Its like, “Have pulse, will hire.”

A future employee’s initiative and customer service orientation is VERY EASY to assess. These traits are innate; you are not going to assess them by getting them to fill out an application and having a general chit-chat.

If you want to understand if the candidate has a customer service drive and initiative, start doing some basic psychometric profiling. At this level it is quick to do and very inexpensive. Psychometric profiling is the only way to scientifically assess the candidate’s personality in respect to customer service and initiative.

Sorry, I don’t accept the excuse that people are hard to find, or because an organisation doesn’t pay top dollar; they need to accept poor customer service.

There are plenty of good people out there; you just have to work at reaching them. Good employees don’t just fall out of the sky. You have to seek them out. Don’t expect them to come flooding into your front door – those ones are usually the ones you don’t want to hire.

If you keep on doing what you are doing you will keep on getting what you’ve got.

With some personal initiative and a very small investment in money and time, you can set up a simple bullet-proof hiring system that will insure you choose frontline people who are driven to serve. Or another way to look at it, ensure you don’t hire any customer killers.

I know when you deal with our team here at Assess you will be killed with service. We pride ourselves on this. It is the life blood of our business because without satisfied customers we don’t have a business.

At the end of the day, people are your only competitive advantage, so start hiring tough and managing easy!

About the Author

Rob McKay


Rob has an extensive background of 25 plus years in the New Zealand and Australian broadcasting industries. In the early 80s, he pioneered commercial FM radio in both Australia and New Zealand. Being an owner, operator and consultant of many radio properties, small and large, Rob has a solid base of general business and marketing knowledge from an industry that is very dependent on 'people performance'.

After selling his radio interests in the early 90s, Rob decided to go back to school! Over 5 years of full-time study he gained a BA in Business Psychology and a MA(Hons) in Industrial & Organisational Psychology from Massey University – specialising in workplace personality.

His interests lie in assessment for employee selection, development and performance management (especially sales people) and the psychology of influence and Persuasion. Rob is the only person in NZ certified to present Dr Robert Cialdini’s 2 day Principles of Persuasion Workshop.

He is an accomplished seminar and conference speaker and author of the eBook “Hire the Best – Avoid the Rest” (soon in hardcopy).

Rob is Managing Director of AssessSystems Aust/NZ Ltd. The company has a wide client base from top corporations down to SMEs. AssessSystems was established in 2000 and has a team of 4 consultants, 1 PhD, 2 MAs – Whilst psychological theory forms the basis of everything we do, we are not a bunch of “warm & fuzzy” academics. We are Organisational Psychologists with PRACTICAL business experience.

“Business is not a democracy. At AssessSystems we don’t teach people to like each other; it’s about how your business can drive more revenue. The pain of growth is inevitable the suffering is optional!”   



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