Posts about bad service

Rude Behavior Costs Companies

Approximately one-third of consumers surveyed reported they’re treated rudely by an employee on an average of once a month and that these and other episodes of uncivil worker behavior make them less likely to patronize those businesses.

Customers rarely report such behavior to employee supervisors, and management systems are so poor they don’t deal with this problem (good systems will – Trader Joe’s or Crutchfield, for example) ensuring a relentless cycle of poor employee behavior that leaves consumers angry and frustrated and saps businesses of customer loyalty, return business and profits, according to researchers from the University of Southern California and Georgetown University. Having tried many times to report failures in their systems to organizations I can say I am either treated with we have no way to accept your feedback or obvious disinterest.

Even, long after Brian Joiner told me he stopped wasting his time for most companies as they obviously had no interest in improving systems to avoid customer hardship I keep banging my head against a wall. It is very rarely that I don’t get complete disinterest. About the best is “you are so right, this is a problem I have to deal with all the time, I have told ‘them’ about the problem but nothing ever happens, I’ll pass on your comment.” It is no surprise people don’t bother to point out problems.

A majority of the respondents went home and told friends and family members about the incident (and connected customers often speak out online to large audiences about bad customer service). Managers are unable to address the issue with employees if the managers don’t have a grasp on what is going on at the gemba. The study found that witnessing employee incivility makes customers angry. Customers are less likely to repurchase from the firm and express less interest in learning about the firm’s new services. For managers who are made aware of the offending behavior, their own harsh treatment of the employee can also prompt negative reactions from consumers.

Related: Customer Service is ImportantUnited Breaks GuitarsFlaws in Understanding Psychology Lead to Flawed Management

“Regardless of the perpetrator or the reason, witnessing incivility scalds customer relationships and depletes the bottom line,” report the co-authors, Georgetown University Assistant Professor of Management Christine Porath and USC Professors of Business Administration and Marketing Debbie MacInnis and Valerie S. Folkes.

The best response is a simple apology, which researchers found was a just and proper response from both the employee and the supervisor. Of course, you should also address any other issue the customer has. Once you mistreat people they often are much more sensitive to things that they would have accepted otherwise. So I believe you would be wise to apologize and ask if there is anything you can help them with. Leave them with a positive, rather than just apologizing for the negative. It would be best to avoid the problems in the first place. Training programs that foster employee civility in order to prevent harmful outbursts may well be wise.

From the abstract of the paper:
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Verizon Provides Lousy Service = Dog Bites Man

It is obvious a few companies don’t have any ability to, provide even just reasonably bad service (for them the goal of decent service is so far away as to not be reasonable). How often do Verizon (based on their lousy track record I won’t get FIOS), Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, United… get blasted for horrible custom service? So often it is not news. Still, the stories of their failures are written about over and over as they make so many people so mad some can’t help posting yet another story about the failures to value customers. Seth Godin is one recent example – Learning from frustration:

In this case, Verizon is acting like a monopoly (they’re not, at least not any more) and they are viewing customer interactions as an expense, not an investment.

So, I start by flipping this on its head. Verizon spends a fortune on advertising and outbound marketing. How much of that budget would they have to allocate/invest in order to turn their customer service into a discussion-worthy best in the world? Or at least enough to keep people from switching in disgust? Not much, it turns out.

Related: Dell, Reddit and Customer FocusMore Bad Customer Service Examples :-( Customer Hostility from Discover CardIs Bad Service the Industry Standard?Ritz Carlton and Home DepotBetter and Different

Customers Get Dissed and Tell

There are those rare companies where interacting with them is not a dreaded experience: Trader Joe’s, Southwest Airlines, Ritz Carlton, Crutchfield, Cannon, Groovix. There are not many. And even just providing something that just works is seen as a treat. The all too common dis-service, combined with the internet, leads to Consumer Vigilantes:

a growing disconnect between the experience companies promise and customers’ perceptions of what they actually get.

A swell of corporate distrust – exacerbated by high executive pay, accounting lapses, and the offshoring of jobs – has people feeling more at odds with companies than ever before.

Years of dialing the call center for a technician yielded at least eight missed appointments by Comcast, he says, but a post on ComcastMustDie brought a phone call the next morning and, later, a lead technician who showed up on time. Now, Salup says: “Anytime I have a problem, I also post it on the blog.”

Pretty lousy systems thinking (or really failures to think systemically). Pay executives obscenely and cut service until customers literally can’t stand you so much they don’t just want to avoid you they want you out of business.

And then instead of fixing the system, just burn the toast (follow the link for an explanation). Then wait from those that get the burnt toast to tell everyone that you sold them burnt toast. Then, after they do that, go scrape it for them. This is not what Dr. Deming meant when he encouraged companies to eliminate the need to inspect for quality. Of course you know that (you are reading this blog after all). Maybe the business schools decided to cut down Deming’s ideas to just eliminating inspection and a couple other sound bites. And then tell the MBA’s not to bother reading all the rest of that… we have to get on to the cost reduction strategies that will make sure you move into the c-level and get the real money.

Most customers, of course, don’t have the time or energy to go that far in their service insurgencies. They want an apology, a human being who answers the phone, or simply some bottled water after a few hours sitting on the airport tarmac

But some companies just push people so far they have to let people know about how poorly they have been treated. Some past posts highlight the frustrating experiences bloggers, including me, share about how badly we have been treated: Ritz Carlton (good) and Home Depot (bad)Incredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover CardMore Bad Customer Service ExamplesPoor Service, an Industry Standard? (HP)Comcast HD DVR Is Simply, Terribly Awful

Consumerist, is a great site, doing what it can to counter some of the horrible service.

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