I’ve written numerous articles on this topic and conducted many customer service training sessions that I can’t even keep count. My approach in dealing with an organization that cries, “Help! I have a customer service problem!” is to start at the top. I soon realized that quite frankly, that’s where the problem originates.
So now the gloves are off. No more skirting the issue. No more subtlety around this vexing problem. Employers need to stop blaming their employees for poor customer service delivery, period.
The statistics are staggering around how customer service impacts a company’s brand and profitability among other things, therefore I need not regurgitate them here. At the end of the day, when sales lag and a slew of customer complaints starts rolling in, take a hard look at how you are treating your employees.
Customer service is not a department, it is a philosophy and all employees, especially the leaders at the top, need to understand their role in the customer service delivery process.
When it comes to engaging top tier leaders, more often than not, they see no real reason to be involved in the training. In their minds, the employees on the front lines are the ones who require training.
Many companies really only just want what I call a “shot in the arm”, feel good seminar for their employees. I akin this approach to truly putting your number one assets on the frontlines of the battle field without any armor or weapons to defend themselves. Ask any customer service provider what it’s like dealing with irate customers and the horror stories will likely make you cringe.
The brunt of the customer service experience rests on the shoulders of the employees who are in direct contact with the consumers so when complaints do arise they are the ones who take the blame. What a shame.
Here is a scenario that plays out probably on a daily basis in businesses with a skewed view of what customer service is really about.
Nancy walks into Acme Goods and Gadgets Inc., in search of the perfect sectional sofa for her newly renovated apartment. It was her first time visiting the store. She decided to check the store out only after receiving information from a friend about the great prices.
When Nancy entered the store there was not one employee smiling. She received no warm welcome or greeting. Undeterred by the coldness emanating from the employees on the floor, she proceeded to search the furniture section and within minutes she spotted the perfect sectional! With the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy store, Nancy found the nearest sales person to inquire about the sofa. Her smile quickly faded when she asked for assistance. The body language, tone and overall demeanor of the sales rep were poor. Let me interject here as to why this part of Nancy’s experience is so sad.
Here you have a motivated customer willing to spend money at this business yet the employee responsible for closing the sale was just rude. What would make an employee whose pay is dependent upon the customer spending money; treat their bread and butter in such a way?
It is very easy for us to blame the employee, who we will call Jennifer, for displaying such poor and unfriendly behavior. But is she truly to blame? I dare say no! Let’s see what may have impacted Jennifer’s poor attitude.
Earlier that morning Jennifer arrived to work 20 minutes early to prepare her aisle and be ready for when the store opened. She too was enthusiastic and ready to do what she loved, which ironically had nothing to do with selling furniture, and more to do with interacting with people and the satisfaction she received when the customers she served left happy.
Jennifer’s enthusiasm was dashed the moment she clocked in. Her manager, Michael, aggressively spoke to her about a matter that occurred the day before. Jennifer received an onslaught of criticism without ever getting a word in to answer to what she was being accused of. What made matters even worse; was other employees witnessed this embarrassing scenario play out.
Let’s pause here and reflect on what may have caused Michael to berate Jennifer first thing in the morning.
You see, Michael was in a management meeting the day before. Sales were down in the furniture department and upper management wanted answers. His superior, Linda, the vice president of Sales and Marketing, didn’t want to hear excuses she wanted results. Michael never had a chance to share that over the last two months the recent shipments from their suppliers had been significantly delayed resulting in low stock. After Michael left that management meeting he was frustrated, demotivated, and outright angry.
Let’s trace back even further into this fictitious story to find out what may have caused Linda, Michael’s boss, to treat him in such an unprofessional manner.
A few days prior to Nancy’s visit to the store, Linda sat in a meeting with her chief executive officer who proceeded to harshly criticize and express his utter disappointment with her performance. If you’re thinking, well, it comes with the job so Linda should just suck it up, don’t. Linda is an employee first and the VP of Sales and Marketing second.
The chain reaction was in full swing and its origin started with the CEO. He created the negative reaction, which, if we fast forward to Nancy, we can see why her experience when she engaged Jennifer was so poor.
Employers: wake up and smell the coffee. Treating your employees poorly and then expecting them to exhibit exceptional customer service is just plain ridiculous. Stop blaming your employees for poor customer service. It all starts with you.
So the next time, dear CEO or business owner, you ask your human resource training manager to find someone to conduct customer service training for your employees, make sure your name is on the list of participants because if you’re not genuine and don’t truly want to see change in a significant, sustainable way, then your flushing money down the drain.
Billie Bowe is the President and CEO of Benchmark Consulting Services Ltd., a management consulting firm with expertise in human resources management. We believe in a global, strategic approach to management consulting. As our clients’ needs change and evolve, we offer solutions that grow along with them. We work as ‘business partners’ with our clients bringing about innovative solutions that are aligned with their business goals and objectives.