Customer Service Warning-What to Watch For: Indications We Have a Customer Service Problem

Alan Boyer

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Do you frequently hear that customers are unhappy about something, and sometimes they are downright frustrated.

Yet, what you hear from your employees is, “Stupid customers! They just don’t understand how to use the product"?

As the owner, or manager, what has been your response? Has it been to back up your employees, or do you go find out what the customer is really saying?

WARNING: you’ve been given an indicator of what is going on in the organization. The customers aren’t getting what they thought they paid for, and the employees are actually blocking access to what the customer wants.

Let’s look at it from the customer’s view: You’ve just bought a new XYZ that is critical to your business operation. You get it back to the office, and can’t make it work as advertised. You call customer support, with hope that it is just something that can be quickly fixed. After waiting on the phone for 30-40 minutes you finally get a live person who immediately says, “Oh sure. Everyone makes that mistake. All you have to do is ……[stand on your left foot while pushing the button with the right index finger]. No problem. Thanks for calling…click. "

You didn’t even have the chance to tell him that you aren’t one of those everyday customers. You are actually quite knowledgeable and already tried that, but it didn’t work. So, since he didn’t listen, you’ve got to make that call again. Another 30-40 minutes waiting and finally get someone else whose immediate response is…. [exactly the same as the last time] but you are trying to get him to listen before he cuts you off like the last guy. You finally get him to stop and listen, but his response is, “You’re using it wrong. It wasn’t meant to do that, at least that way. When you are using it THAT way you have to stand on the right foot while pushing the button with the left index finger. Geeeeee!!! …. . click. "

And after you try it on the left foot it starts working, at least it does until the next day when it goes down again. In the meantime you and your business were off line for how long at how much cost?

What did it cost you to buy that product that was supposed to save you money?

And chances are that there will be another 20-30 calls for other similar issues. In the meantime it’s costing you tons of time and money while you are trying to fix THEIR product, and, in some cases, because your business is dependent upon having the product working, the entire business is down at enormous cost.

So, what’s the answer to this?

Although many customer service reps, managers, and business owners think this is a technical problem that can be fixed by fixing the technical issue, please listen carefully IT IS NOT just a technical issue. It is a management problem. It is up to management to fix the fact that the person directly in contact with the customer is more concerned in proving that the product really does work and the customer is too stupid to know it instead of helping the customer get what he really wants. The employees must be informed, must be trained, to understand their real job is to help the customer and that requires listening to him thoroughly instead of justifying that your product really does work. Otherwise they are probably answering the WRONG question.

Sometimes there really is a good technical reason to stand on the left foot instead of the right when pushing the button. And if a customer doesn’t know how or when to do that, isn’t the problem with the instructions or possibly something else, not the customer.

Keep good records on what customers are calling about. Even if an employee has what he thinks is a justifiable answer, if that question just keeps coming up over and over it is time to find out what the real base cause is.

I also believe that most customer service people actually are trying to do a good job for their boss, but they don’t understand what the goals of their job really are. So they are doing a good job delivering the wrong service. Most feel that their job is to protect the boss, the company, and maybe their own job, from that “stupid customer. " That makes it a losing situation for the customer, and, after all, it is the customer that is paying your salaries not the other way around. The customer will eventually go away if this doesn’t change.

If the employees change their perspective to, “My job is to help the customer get what he wants. I’m the expert on company policy, the technical issues, and I’ll use those tools to help the customer get what he really wants (which usually is a product that works). "

I was traveling to the Middle East last year and saw a perfect example of how the perception of an employee might affect his customers. When arriving at the counter where they check passports there were two people that were there to facilitate faster movement through the different lines but each had a totally different idea of what their job was.

One considered himself as someone to help the people get what they wanted. They walked up to the arriving passengers, asking them if they were citizens or not and guiding citizens quickly to the right line. If they were not citizens, then they asked if they had each of the several papers filled out, checked those papers and then showed them how to to correct line XYZ before getting up to the counter that they were now being pointed toward.

The other considered himself a policeman. He was preventing people from getting in line if they didn’t have the form, or if it wasn’t filled out correctly, preventing them from getting in the wrong lines, and sending them over to a work table to fill out the papers themselves. When they came back the “policeman" would check the papers again and send them back to do them over. No offer to help other than to say, this isn’t filled out right, do it again.

The difference between these people is mainly in their vision of their job, what they perceive as their job. They both have the same job description, making sure that the agent at the counter doesn’t have to deal with improperly filled out forms and to make the lines move through faster.

However, one sees his job as catching mistakes and taking them out of line. That might actually make things easier on the guy checking papers at the counter, but certainly not on the customer, the guy trying to get in to the country. The other sees his job as helping the customer get through this tough process and guiding him to get the answers on the paper, and into the right line.

So, ultimately how can this be used in your company? Make sure that the employees in direct contact with a customer have a vision of their job that is clearly defined as: Your job, if you decide to take it, is to make sure that customer gets what he wants. You are the expert in company policy, and possibly even technical issues of the product so use those tools to facilitate, smooth out, getting the customer what he wants.

Many times the responsibility of the employee is not to find a technical reason (standing on the left foot while…. . ). The employees should be trained to think beyond the fact that some technical aspect of a product is or is not broken. He should be asking the customer why he is struggling, it could be in the instructions, it could be customers are buying it to do something that it wasn’t intended to do (marketing, advertising, are saying the wrong thing, or not saying it clearly enough) and the employee must grasp this idea and fix the real problem, such as suggesting that the company rewrite the instructions, change the product, etc.

Frequently the employees need to be trained to think out of the box, and help the customer in ways that are not quite as obvious. The employees can better help a customer if they have the skills to probe to find what is the real cause that is well beyond a technical “it’s broken" response from a customer.

Alan Boyer, President/CEO of The Leader’s Perspective, LLC is considered one of the world’s leading breakthrough specialists. He has worked with some of the worlds largest companies, on projects in the multi-billion dollar area, and with single proprietor companies. He has worked on many hundreds of projects with companies that have resulted in multi-$100 million savings or gains.

With over 35 years of business, quality, and process experience, he has catapulted businesses lightyears ahead in weeks. Some have doubled and some have jumped 10 times. He claims the key to that is:

  • Helping the business owners/employees develop the business skills
  • Helping them overcome the limitations and attitudes that they built between their ears (the self imposed limitations, I can’t, this won’t work for me, I’m different)
  • By helping them find the breakthroughs in their business and thinking

    He helps companies worldwide reach further than they EVER thought possible…. FASTER

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