We hope it’s an individual and not a company-wide problem. It could be poor hiring or poor training that results in certain counterproductive tactics that account executives and customer service representatives in big companies increasingly use.
It seems to occur when companies oversell goods and services and then are unable to adequately service their accounts. The people whose job it is to interface with the customer tend to be harried, overworked, and somewhat confused.
But the message to the customer is clear. “Go away, get off the phone. I don’t have time for you, you’re lucky to get me at all. Accept my excuses and empty promises or you’ll get even less.”
Any startup or buildup company would certainly go out of business if their representatives sent this message by their words, actions, or inactions. It seems like this kind of experience is a growing danger in some buildout and enterprise companies that grew too fast, promised ongoing results, and filled their service jobs quickly but not necessarily with well-trained professionals.
Poor Customer Service Examples
Here are some of the behaviors we have witnessed from a customer standpoint:
1. Missed Deadlines
“Don’t worry. I’ll have that for you tomorrow,” is the usual promise, evidently to get you off the phone. But then tomorrow comes, and the day after, and there is no communication whatsoever. You have to call or send emails day after day until you receive what they promised. The implication is that it’s up to you as the customer to oversee them as the service provider.
This sends an “I don’t care, you’re not important to me” message. This frustrates the customer and makes them wonder why they did business with the company in the first place. But they’ve already bought the service, and now they’re locked in. The representative knows this and so there is no sense of urgency. They’ve got us over the barrel!
2. Blaming Others
“It’s not my fault, the tech people didn’t get back to me.” Or “Well, that’s what I was told.” These same representatives force the customer to go only through them for all interactions with their company. The customer is at the mercy of the representative. The representative can say anything to the customer with no accountability. This is because the customer can’t access the right people in the company to get a satisfactory answer.
“They’ve changed the rules,” is another common excuse. In this scenario, the representative blames a third-party for not being able to deliver what they promised. While it’s true that rules change, the representative is under no pressure to identify those changes as soon as they occur. Sometimes the representative only finds out about the rule change when the customer complains about nonperformance. Since the customer can only go through a representative, the customer has no way of knowing when the representative was truly aware of any rule change. But the results usually waste the customer’s precious time. Again, this demonstrates no sense of urgency on the part of the representative.
3. Avoiding Work
“You don’t need that fixed anyway.” “Me and my colleagues have decided it’s not necessary and everything works fine just the way it is.” This is a typical tactic to avoid doing the work the customer requests. Even when it’s the company’s responsibility to provide services without glitches, the representative tells the customer that the glitches are okay and don’t need fixing.
This tactic creates an argument between the customer and the representative as to the true need for the fix. The representative takes the position, “I’m the expert, and I’ll be the judge of that.” This is to mask the fact that the work was not done in a timely manner. It’s like, “It doesn’t matter that we didn’t do the work because it wasn’t needed anyway.” It’s another convenient excuse.
We’ve witnessed other tactics of poorly hired or poorly trained representatives working for large companies that can’t service what they’ve sold. These include emphatically stated outright errors, poor or no preparation for meetings, little or no knowledge of account history, poor coordination, and never acknowledging a mistake or a missed self-imposed deadline.
All of these tactics can occur when representatives believe they are going to get paid no matter what happens to the customer. For them, it’s hours put in and they are overworked. So, their goal is to reduce the work any way possible. We’ve seen this problem occur in top-down companies that view customer service as “complaint resolution.”
These tactics ultimately discourage the customer to the point that they feel obligated to warn others that the company can’t live up to its promises. This reputation hurts the company’s sales. But in the meantime, companies that behave like this suffer a great deal of turnover. This is because they don’t treat their employees much different than they treat their customers. The good ones who want to do a good job, and want to work for a company that lives up to its promises will move on. The turnover hurts the relationship with the customer even further.
It’s only a matter of time before these types of companies will implode from their own policies. We’re shopping, how about you?
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.
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