Working Hard

And losing customers

I was getting some work done at a local service center. The place was busy, so busy, in fact, that the wait times were getting drawn out and the new customers were lining up outside the door.

You could see that the people behind the desk were feeling the pressure. If you watched them a while, they started to get that look of people with a single-minded determination to get the job done, to catch up on the workflow, to live up to their customer service mantra.

Suddenly, none of the employees was walking anymore. They were doing that long stride you see when people are speedwalking. They focused on their mission to service the customers.

And, in the process, they forgot about the customers.

People with jobs in process started to complain to each other about the slow service. People in line looked at the empty stations while the people who were supposed to be greeting them were trapped, in the back room, trying to catch up. One lonely rep was in the front of the shop, juggling all the tickets.

What does it take to turn a customer relations fiasco into a loyalty-building experience? Even if it delayed one job, the shop manager could have brought one more person from the back of the house to help manage the customer inflow. The sole rep at the desk could have gotten on the PA system to apologize for the delay and offer waiting patrons some soft drinks from the employee lounge. The manager could have asked customers with flexibility to make an appointment, one that would be honored, to come back at another time, and sweetened it with a 10% discount. After all, losing 10% is cheaper than losing a customer.

None of this happened, of course. The workers, along with the manager, were too busy doing their jobs. So busy, in fact, that they failed to do their jobs. Strategy is cooked up in the boardroom, but results are built at the point of customer contact.


Written by Michael Rosenbaum on August 12th, 2012. Posted in Performance Improvement, Strategic Insights

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Comments (1)

  • August 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm |

    Michael-I agree. Even the best companies like Apple often fail to feel what it is like to be a customer. They can feel what it is like to be the service rep, but not the customer. Customers mostly want information and concern-they rarely have to give us a perk to make us stop grumbling. We all know that things get backed up-just give us some info so we know what is happening. Airlines are the worst-every time there is a delay it feels as if this is the first time it has ever happened to them! Imagine what positive reviews we would give a company if they managed their customer service well.

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