Why Corporates Struggle To Provide Good Customer Service (and what they should do about it)

We are all human and humans make mistakes. Most people understand this.

Therefore, as I described last week when discussing making a loyal customer out of an annoyed one, it is not the problem itself that loses you the customer, it is how you deal with it.

Corporate Control Kills Customer Service

I have an entirely inconsistent experience with most large companies I deal with regularly. O2 and HSBC are two I deal with particularly often.

Things inevitably go wrong, as they would with any telco or bank.  The problem is that I enter a lottery every time I pick up the phone to deal with them.

  • Will I get someone intelligent or stupid at the end of the phone?
  • Will someone know the software systems / products and services correctly, or will I actually know them better than the monkey I’m talking to?
  • Will they even care, or it 5 minutes to clock out and they just want to go home and watch Eastenders (that’s a depressing UK Soap Opera, for my American readers 😉 ?

You can only empathise and correct a problem effectively if you have two things:

  1. A human customer service agent who cares
  2. A human customer service agent who has been giving the autonomy to make decisions and take action

The first of these is an area most corporates should be good at; there is really no excuse. Incentive schemes, good office culture, performance related pay. It’s all obvious.

The second, of autonomy and giving individuals authority, seems to be on an ever more rapid decline, especially in larger business.

Whether it is local bank managers having lending powers stripped away, or shop assistants unable to make a refund decision without the manager (who has gone out for a fag break; US readers, that’s a cigarette), people are more often than not being turned into drones.

I find it an anathema that companies really believe ever tighter controls and restrictions will ultimately protect profit margins, let alone increase profits, or ultimately share price.

Back In The USSR

The analogy is that of the Communist state – of dumb workers following the instructions blindy. It is akin to Russian airline pilots who have been so programmed not to cross authority or argue, that they’d rather risk killing a plane full of people than do what they know is the right thing.

Removing the ability for people to think for themselves and take responsibility for their actions, also automatically results in lower performance, caring less about their job and not THINKING about what they are doing.

Treat an adult like a child, they will behave like one.

Sure, some people will behave like a child anyway. Sure, some people will make too many mistakes and are not capable of making even basic responsible decisions – but then do you want to be employing these people anyway? Anywhere??

Don't turn your team or workforce into a bunch of lemmings by being a control freak. Give them responsibility and make them answerable for it. (Image from Saturday Cartoons. Click to visit)

How To Use Staff Autonomy To Win

The next generation of winners going into the 21st Century will be those corporates, blue chips and giants of industry who buck this trend and do the opposite of everyone else.

Re-engage your employees, give them responsibility, challenge them to make decisions and then subsequently justify them if needed. Make this the founding differentiator of your company and corporate philosophy.

There are even successful templates for this ethos, taken much further than customer service; just read Maverick by Ricardo Semler.

You will turn your monkeys into ambassadors of your brand, proud to be skilled and pleasing your customers. This will increase your share price, this will increase your profits, this will ensure you don’t end up like Stalin, the Polit Bureau and every other system in history which has tried to restrain and suffocate free thinking.

Instead, your staff can take responsibility for their own actions; and best of all, it far more quickly reveals those who under perform, are incapable in their role or simply don’t care enough.

It’s obvious when you think about it.

Let’s start the revolution today!


4 thoughts on “Why Corporates Struggle To Provide Good Customer Service (and what they should do about it)

  1. I love this post! It’s very true. It’s almost like people are too afraid of using their creativity/skills. Instead of just doing the right thing workers are alienated from problem solving.

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