Matthew Hudson | September 10, 2009
Except from the book Culturrific!
People make more bad decisions each day in business with the right intentions. A company decides to improve its service or processes within the company to raise the bar on customer satisfaction and customer service. The mistake they make is when they pass service “laws” in their company that are not from the customer’s point of view. You probably always wanted to learn a second language and now is your chance – the language of Customer Speak.
For example, you may pass an edict that all phones be answered on the first ring. You communicate, train and award this behavior to make it a part of your culture. You expend lots of money and time putting this into place. Why? Because you think it’s a great way to show you care. But what if your customers would be just as happy if the phone were answered on the third ring? How much more money does it cost you to get every phone on the first ring compared to the third? Most likely, you would need extra employees answering the phone. Who pays for this? The customer. This would be like FedEx automatically delivering every package by 10:30 am the next day. They wouldn’t make any big deal about it publicly. They would simply add the cost of this new “customer service” to the price of the delivery. But you are still paying for this service – a service you may not want or need.
Recently, I needed to go to New York. I had a ticket, but wanted to find out about flying standby on an earlier flight. I called American Airline’s 800 number and asked the girl who answered to check on flight 736 for me. She told me it was leaving on time. I said, “But I want to know how many seats are available to know whether I should risk the hour drive to the airport to fly standby.” She replied, “Sir, I cannot give out that information.” This was news to me and to any of you frequents flyers. I have been calling the airlines for years and they have been telling me the “plane is half full” or “there are only three seats left on the plane.” If you are attempting to fly stand by, this is very valuable information. When I explained that every other time I called I got this type of information, she replied, “Sir, this phone call is being monitored and if I don’t do what I am told, then I will get marked down for it and it will cost me money!” She was sincere and honest.
How many times have you heard the recording at the beginning of the hold tape that says, “This call may be monitored for quality control?” I never really paid attention to this before this incident. After sharing my experience with my colleagues, we decided to further investigate. Being in the DFW area, home of American Airlines, this should be fairly easy.
We contacted the corporate offices and were sent on the complimentary “transferred around the company a few times” trip (this is always the case in great service companies, right?). Finally, the right person got on the line and told us exactly what we wanted to hear. “This is part of our continuing efforts to provide superior customer service to our passengers on American.” We then asked the magic question, “Where did you come up with this idea? Did your customers ask for it?” “Uh, no this was a decision by upper management to create a better experience on the phones for our customers.” “Thank you for giving me this service!” we said as we hung up the phone. Here is a classic example of a program gone wrong. How can anyone provide superior service if they are afraid to think and act for themselves? We have laced this book with the theme that you must capture the hearts and heads of your employees if you expect them to perform as a service culture. This method of “checking up on you” says one thing to the employees – “We don’t trust you!” How will you ever capture the hearts and heads of your employees if they do not feel you trust them? Poor American. Their hearts are in the right place. But their wallets aren’t unless they are listening to the Customer Speak.