Monday, July 19, 2010

Poor Customer Service - Is Someone Having a Bad Day or a Symptom of Bad Management?

Have you ever walked into an establishment and wished you had done an about-face right before entering? You might have been feeling full of confidence and enthusiasm walking in only to feel deflated and indignant on the way out because of the way you were treated. Maybe the person who projected this behavior was having a bad day or simply disliked their job and let you have it! Perhaps you responded with the same attitude or you likely just decided to let it go but never return there again. Whatever the case may be, poor customer service does impact a company's bottom line but not in a positive way.

The good news is that companies can take steps to ensure that those bad experiences are kept to a minimum. They can also put in place measures to make up for those rare occasions of poor customer service and perhaps gain even further loyalty to their business. Here are some thoughts on why it’s important to treat everyone in an organization and everyone that touches the organization feel good about what they are doing.

I recently attended a superb forum called Diversity & Inclusion Practices to Sustain Employee Engagement. During this forum, the keynote speaker Joe Machicote said “If you are not serving your customers, you should be serving those who do”. I found this statement to be a key to help me understand why it is that people experience bad customer service. I realized that it could very well be that the employees on the front line may not feel “included” in the mission of the company or worse yet, they may feel disrespected or ignored.

Could that be the only reason to explain these types of scenarios? Maybe not, but it may be a way to help explore and engage employees to feel like everything they do regardless of how insignificant it may appear to others, does not only have an impact on the bottom line for the company, but that they are valued and appreciated for their contribution.

Sometimes employees have their own personal problems or prejudices and reflect it in their job performance but it may not be the only reason for poor customer service. At least looking at this dilemma from an objective standpoint, we may be able to find answers and solutions rather than brushing them off as low performers with no people skills. In fact, after this seminar I was open to the idea that perhaps some employees simply reflect the management leaders by example default. If those in management roles take proactive approach in the development and inclusion of their employees regardless of their ethnicity or background, it may produce long term benefits of loyalty and commitment. While they may not always be comfortable with this approach, it may significantly improve customer service within their companies.

While customer service skills are learned and paired with our own personal characters, a genuine organizational approach to cultural diversity and inclusion may prove to be more than just lip service and instead motivate and empower employee to develop themselves and succeed in their tasks and personal lives.

Let me illustrate with a personal experience I encountered many years ago. I had spoken with a very pleasant company representative of company for which I was going to do business with. I was asked to come to the local office to complete some required paperwork. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the same person but this time in a very unprofessional manner. I was dismayed and confused but rather than just let it go, I wrote to the owner of the company regarding my experience. My thought was that this company must have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars to advertise how great they were only to have an employee throw their marketing investment out the window through poor customer service. Every person walking through their door was a potential result of company marketing efforts. However, a person leaving their office with a negative impression would potentially have a negative affect on their profitability. I was very impressed that the owner took heed to my expressed concern and made every attempt to rectify the matter. Nonetheless, the image of their company was now tainted for future opportunities.

Rather than relying on fixing a bad customer experiences, companies should incorporate internal checks and balances to ensure that everyone within the company understands that they are serving a customer at all times. For example, if one of the HR representatives does not serve an employee in a professional manner, it may cause the employee to feel disengaged and less likely to project an enthusiastic approach to the end-user customer.

Taking initiatives to engage employees from the perspective that Machicote recommends may prove to be a value-added approach to organizations that are losing great talent because there is no customer service examples from leadership. If management leaders embrace their employees as individuals and invest in their talents and skills, employees may improve in performance and deliver with excellence because they are being lead by example.

Granted this may not be the cure-all answer for every company but it sure beats a passive or rigid approach to managing people as if they were assets, clones of one another, or dispensable. Every individual has the potential to make a company shine or bring it to its knees. Let us all take pride on how we deliver customer service whether it’s to the end-user customer or to those who work under our management. It’s a world of inclusion for all to enjoy!


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  2. Edwin,

    Great blogging platform of topics you have published. I find your conversational writing style engaging.

    Carl E. Reid, CSI