What causes bad customer service? (+ what makes Twitter special)

August 23rd, 2008

After Marie had some exceptionally bad customer service yesterday, I twittered the question "what causes bad customer service?"

What followed were some really insightful answers. I’ve added them below. Why blog about customer service on a blog about social media? Because social media has the potential to expose customer service holes in your organisations extremely fast (here’s an example ). And it also has the potential to improve it, if used for internal as well as external communications.

Is it the people or the systems that cause bad customer service?

I’ll step aside now and let my esteemed colleagues take up the thread:

Q: What causes bad customer service?

Ben Young : Lack of strategic focus on customers? Or just someone having a bad day. Or… they just don’t like you?

Rob Inskeep : I think it’s seperation from the customer. I’ve found in smaller organizations and groups it’s EASIER to care… …Perception of safety (anonymity?) in numbers perhaps…

Mr Judkins : I would say low staff morale, or having staff who are in a position which does not align with their strengths…

That’s a biggie! Even if the organisation has the best systems, it ultimately comes down to how that person feels and behaves towards you. The right person in the wrong job is the wrong person for the job.

Rachel Ah Kit : I think it’s lack of passion. If you have passion, you want the "share the love" and that translates to good service!

to which I added: "and I guess passion can only come when there’s a clear vision"

Rachel: definitely! I guess passion and vision go hand in hand!

Steven Kempton : too high expectations….

On reflection, I should’ve asked Steven whose expectations were too high – customers, or companies?

S Collings : not enough info at the finger tips and too many numbers to call / segmented support areas – VF/iHug etc

This is also a biggie, and Vodafone NZ is a good example. Mergers and acquisitions make great sense for the share price, but providing consistent experience with rapidly changing and evolving products can be costly and confusing for the people who have to deliver the service.

Neil Forster : Is it what, or who ? for some reasone when we design customer service, we forget to think how we’d like it as well.

Persoanlly I find "they" try to design for "the average"…so missing the "people"… I’m never me/seen "Mr/Mrs Average"

if at home, or in store, as a customer, would "you" put up with it. Most people who do this, when asked in my experiecne, say "nope" WTF

I jumped in and asked: "
or is it simply that the systems are under-designed? Or poorly designed?"

Rob Inskeep again: I think they are, if anything, overdesigned. The lack of flex disallows different use cases and expects 1 size fits all

empowering (and TRUSTING) staff to make the right decision to resolve a specific situation requires lots of staff training

Neil Forster again: Yup, under (designed) and poorly and in some cases "arrogantly"…the world of Cust. Experience is trying to change that, lets hope

Indeed! :)

Rob Inskeep: Providing rigid and inflexible rules does wonders for consistent service so the answer is the same each time, but quality..?

unfortunatly I can’t tell you. I think it’s a hard field as lessonplans *should* update to keep pace with environment..but..

..environments and businesses are changing so swiftly, it’s hard to keep reworking content and *still* turn a profit.

Rob’s hit an important nail on the head. More training is often needed, but the interesting question is, how to do that profitably. This is where can perhaps take some notes from companies like British Telecom, who’ve used social media to increase the speed and reduce the cost of learning in the organisation.

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  • One of the big issues is that companies don't understand the benefits of treating existing customers well and often lose them when they could increase their profit by simple listening.

    Customer complaints are blocked most of the time and so management never get to hear what is really going on at the sharp end.

    Some more ideas are at http://www.dialogcrm.com/blog/2008/09/02/custom...
  • Love the networksourcing (play on crowdsourcing).

    Ultimately as the proliferation of 'recorded conversations' increases organisations simply aren't going to be able to consistently deliver bad customer service, they just won't thrive. Whereas in the past organisations could continually provide bad service and not worry about it. They can either view this as a hindrance or a major opportunity.
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