What’s Wrong with (Your) Customer Service?

What’s Wrong with (Your) Customer Service?

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at gitomer.me.


More than you want to know.

You’d think that with all the billions being spent on customer service and training that service would be great everywhere. Wrong. Service is still lousy and in my opinion getting worse.

How come?

Big question. Lots of reasons. Lots of complex issues. Hard answers. (If the answers were easy, your service would be great.) Upside down priorities brought about by lack of understanding and delivery of what the customer wants and needs. And failure to make the customer the hero of your company policy rather than the goat of it.

This is compounded by the overall lack of responsibility taken by employees for actions that customers require. “It’s not my job,” and other issues of blame (the opposite of responsibility) are the biggest reasons why customers go to competitors.

Here are the 10.5 basic reasons service is bad (and getting worse) followed by hard questions. Try to read these without squirming. How you answer and follow through on the hard questions will determine who gets the reorder you or your competition.

1. Wrong mission statement. Your ad agency created it. No one gets it. No one knows it. It doesn’t relate to the customer, it relates to the company and, if you put a gun to the heads of your employees and said, “recite our mission statement or die,” they’d all be dead. Hard question: Why have a mission statement no one knows, understands, follows or lives by?

2. No written principles for customer are established. Just a bunch of rules and policies most of which are written in terms of the company, not the customer. Principles are what you live by. Policies are what you live with. (See next week’s column for a list of customer service principles you can adapt/adopt for your company and yourself.) Hard question: Do you have written customer principles to guide your employees and your business by?

3. Poor examples set by upper management. The ones who are inaccessible to customers and employees alike. It’s easy to recognize them, they’re the ones who have their calls screened with the words, “Can I tell him what this is in reference to?” They’re also the ones you can count on NOT to return your call. People more concerned with helping themselves than helping others. Hard question: How much day-to-day contact does your upper management have with your customers?

4. Companies allow employees to be rude to customers, and tell customers “no.” When you deny a customer, their need still exists AND they are mad. Then you add to the fire by saying, “Don’t talk to me like that,” or “I don’t have to take this.” Good move. A complaining customer is seen as a “hassle” rather than an opportunity. Hard question: Who is allowed to tell a customer no? How do you handle, document, and react to complaints?

5. We are living in an era of responsibility shirkers and blamers. “It’s not my job,” is their credo. Responsibility-takers are so rare that they often receive awards and have articles written about them. Hard question: Does the person who takes the complaint follow through to see that it was handled? Do you reward your employees for exceptional complaint handling?

6. Companies are concerned with customer “satisfaction” rather than “loyalty.” Satisfaction is the lowest form of loyalty. Satisfied customers will shop anywhere, loyal customers will fight before they switch and will get others to do business with you by referral. Satisfied customers are apathetic. Loyal customers will be your advocate. Hard question: Are you measuring satisfaction or loyalty?

7. Low training budget priority. Big companies spend more money producing and airing ONE sixty-second commercial than they will spend on a customer service program in a year. They spend more money on “lip” service than “customer” service. Pathetic. Hard question: How does your service program budget and training budget compare to your advertising budget or better stated how does your advertising budget compare to your word-of-mouth advertising budget?

8. Concentrating on competitive issues rather than competitive advantages. “Our price is too high,” “Our market share is too low,” are competitive issues. (Airline) customers want baggage room underneath row one and drinkable coffee. Those are competitive advantages. (The definition of a competitive advantage is: Something the customer considers very important, at which you or your company excels.) Competitive advantage is the most overlooked issue in customer service. Hard question: Based on the new definition provided above, have you identified your competitive advantages?

9. Companies make the fatal mistake of only providing “company training” and “policy (rules) training.” They MAY provide some “customer service” training, but very few offer any “personal development” training (positive attitude, goals, listening, responsibility, pride, or communication skills.) This is especially fatal with front line people people who need to know it starts with positive attitude, not the company policy or manual. Rule of thumb: Provide as much personal development training as you do company training. Hard question: How much personal development training do you provide the employees who need it the most?

10. Companies only train once in a while instead of every day. Fifteen to thirty minutes of training a day will make any employee a world class expert in five years. Hard question: How much daily training do you provide?

10.5 Failure to realize who is really in sales and service. Anyone who talks to a customer (often referred to by mistake as a client, patient, member, passenger, subscriber, or guest). Do you have a list of people who interact with customers daily? Hard question: Do the people on that list understand, execute and deliver the mission and customer service principles of the company in a world class way?

The above wakeup call is just the tip of the iceberg. Next week you will be exposed to the principles of customer service that need to precede your company policy and you’ll get a preview of the universal mission statement. This week you have just been exposed.

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