What Gets in the Way of Offering Great Customer Service?

question markI am enjoying my new radio program, Customers Rock! Radio, and on it I have the opportunity to talk with many different people. Some are from businesses, some are consultants, and others are authors. Later this month (January 25), I will have the privilege of hosting Barry Moltz on my program. Barry is the author of the new book BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World, recently chosen as a 2009 Best Small Business Book.

Barry is also my guest author today here on the first Customers Rock! post of 2010. Enjoy!

What Gets in the Way of Offering Great Customer Service? Guest Author: Barry Moltz

As consumers, we all want it. As companies, we all promise to give it. Somewhere in between, we lose good customer service. Why?

One of the biggest obstacles blocking customer service is confusion about why a company provides customer service in the first place. It’s a myth to believe that ethics, pride, or altruism are the reasons for a company to provide customer service. A company provides good customer service because it delivers an economic advantage—either in terms of increased revenue or reduced cost. Altruism isn’t a valid reason to provide good customer service. We like our customers a lot—as people and as customers, but our relationship is based on mutual economic advantage. We provide services that our customers need, benefit from, and are willing to pay for. BAM!-good customer service is part of our economic model.

Ethical standards of business behavior are unwavering. We believe that every company should behave ethically in all matters. The measure of ethics is whether or not a company keeps all its commitments in an honest and trustworthy way—these commitments may or may not include customer service. A side benefit of keeping customers happy and satisfied is pride in a job well done—but pride is not the  reason to provide customer service. The reason to provide BAM!-good customer service is because it increases the bottom line.

Here are some of the things that get in the way of offering great customer service. We call them BAM! Blockers.

  • Many businesses have economic models that work only if front-line customer positions pay minimum wage.
  • The computer or manual support system the company has stink.
  • Customers are fundamentally unreasonable people who set out to prey on business owners, nicking away at profitability by asking for more than they are willing to pay.
  • Our company believes in setting high goals and standards for our company, and higher expectations for our customers, whether we can deliver on those goals and expectations or not.
  • There is nothing we can do in customer service since our products in the marketplace are so far from perfect.
  • Just because the customers aren’t mad doesn’t mean you are delivering good customer service.
  • What was good customer service yesterday may not be seen as good customer service today.
  • Conditions have changed and the company cannot deliver the same level of customer service as before.
  • The cell phone!
  • The company leadership is saying one thing about customer service, but acts a different way.
  • Employees don’t like their jobs. They kick the cat, taking their frustration out on the customers.
  • The company doesn’t train employees with the specifics of satisfying customers.
  • The company has set a price point that doesn’t leave enough margin to provide the level of service or quality that customers want.
  • It’s inevitable that every business will keep customers waiting.
  • Customers want a human relationship, and not every business can provide that.
  • All businesses must use voice mail in order to keep expenses down.
  • Well-trained and well-intended employees will not make mistakes that cause problems for customers.
  • Employees may not be trained to efficiently and cost-effectively address customer problems without degrading service in other areas.
  • Employees will never be able to figure out the right balance of authority and employee empowerment

What prevents you from offer good customer service? Tell us!

(Image credit: iqoncept)

6 Responses

  1. Hi Becky,
    It seems that a common denominator to bad service is Fear. Most companies are Fear Based Managed, even if that is not the intent, overall we have a flawed management system in America.

    But, Think Southwest Airlines, they have always solved my problem, irrespective of the issue, including, No we ca not do that, but we can do this. I have never felt the need to ask for a supervisor at Southwest.Southwest employees act like owners, I have flown them more than I care to admit.

    Think about this, I have never taxied a runway as fast in ANY other airline as SW, those cowboys land the plane, get it to the gate, offload, and on load in record time.

    What is their magic?

  2. Eric, I see the fear as being concerned about the cost to deliver great customer service. However, the cost is larger if poor customer service is delivered, in my opinion.

    I also enjoy Southwest and have written about them before. I believe part of their success is the employees they hire. They look for people with what they call a “warrior spirit”. These are people who will take care of customers no matter what.

    People will always have the occasional poor customer service experience, even with a great company like Southwest, but on the whole they do a fabulous job!

    Thanks for your comment, Eric. You rock!

  3. Hi Becky

    Great post to start a conversation.

    I see many companies losing on Customer Service because their performance and pay model is geared to stats, sales and revenue rather than customer experience. If somehow companies could drive an incentive program around the number of customers who leave the shop happy and satisfied customer service staff and sales people might look at their job in a different light.

    Eric mentioned FEAR which is quite right, fear for not making target that day or that week drives emotions and behaviors not conducive to creating a great experience for that person/customer

    Just my thoughts



  4. I think there is an interesting dynamic entering the market place today – there are roughly 70 to 80 million Gen Y consumers becoming fully immersed in the economy. They are entering not only on the spend side of the equation but on the earning side as well.

    With some level of armchair speculation on my part – I am presupposing that much of what is being defined as customer service today is being done so by those who grew up digital – Gen Y. And, because they represent two-thirds of the spending power and an innate high level of entitlement – industries across the board must listen up. Despite the fact it’s the right thing to do- it’s not a choice anymore.

    I think we will see many more trailblazers, cavaliers and rouge customer world rockers in the coming five years. Not motivated by fear in any way but rather a deep and philanthropic commitment to being a part of something bigger than self, that and, the fact that the metrics that will measure the benefits of doing so will be more widely accepted. It will all boil down to the speed of trust. And, the magic is the culture –

    I am personally jazzed by companies that embrace the change – I am jazzed by the feeling that business is becoming hyper-personal again.

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