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Archive for October, 2009

Poor service is a collective responsibility not just the waiter’s

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Consider the lot of the frontline service professional.  When consumers complain about poor service their venom is nearly always aimed at a person – the call centre agent, the waiter, the check out person – but on almost every occasion they are not the ones at fault.

Responsibility for service delivery is a management issue and not one that can be delegated (or is that abdicated?).   In a recent blog Tom Johansmeyer  identified several characteristics of poor service.  His points relate to the experience with the person not the situation.  I don’t particularly disagree with his thoughts but they are still all failings of management not the people.

Service companies can only invest a high degree of expectation in their frontline staff if they have given them the tools to the job – information and training (including attitude, civility etc) are two important aspects but so is giving them that feeling of being supported, of having a team behind them, of having their manager’s backing.  By abdicating responsibility for service to an individual and expecting them to rescue every situation through charm alone you betray that individual and throw them to the lions – and let’s face it customers are getting more and more confident in their right to complain.

This situation is also true with senior management and the service department.  The service a company provides is not the sole responsibility of the service department.  They need to have the team behind them – abdicate the company’s service strategy to the service department and you betray them and your brand.

One last semi related point.  Isn’t it sad that in a civilised society we need to have signs in customer service areas that say something to the effect that ‘physical and verbal abuse of staff will not be tolerated and offenders will be prosecuted’.  But the abuse happens:  train staff are harangued for the failure of rolling stock; Jobcentre staff because of  government policy; shop staff because the company has changed its returns policy.   So another important message for managers – the failure to deliver the infrastructure and processes doesn’t just damage your brand, sadly they also threaten your staff physically and emotionally.

Of course the responsibility for the abuse lies personally with the abuser and there is no excuse.   Clearly there is something deeply unpleasant in the psyche of many complainers.  Effectively it’s a desire to bully rather than an emotional reaction to “poor service”.   I’m no sociologist but perhaps it is a vestige of our class system where new social aspirant thugs are taking the “right” to lord it up over “lower class” serving staff and treat them like punch bags.  Who knows, but it is a disturbing trait and reflects the nation’s low perception of customer service.

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Learning the lessons of blogging

October 14, 2009 1 comment

It has been a long time since the last post and this has been for a number of reasons.

The positive one is that I’ve been experimenting  with Twitter and saying what I want to say in 140 characters.  For someone with a long experience of headline and caption writing this is still fun and challenging.

On a less positive note my mind has been taken up with other things the main one of which has been losing my job (more on that in later blogs no doubt).  Now this is where I need to be careful because my previous post 180+ days ago got me into some trouble with my employers and I don’t want to create any further difficulties for me (or them for that matter) by going into details.  This put me off returning to the blog for some time.   But with the passing of time I can see it was an interesting lesson in my own (and others’) naivety when it came to blogging.

Most stunningly stupid was my failure to realise that people might read what I posted.  And that those readers may also react to it.    

Lesson One:  You’re are talking to the world not chuntering to yourself  in a private room so don’t say anything in a blog you’re not prepared to say to anyone’s/everyone’s face

As you can see the previous post was about recruiting a new editor.  Despite some interest in the blog there was no serious candidates at all that could be tracked back to it.

Lesson Two:  Don’t listen to over enthusiastic proponents who tell you that in the new era social networking is the driver of all commerce and the solver of the world’s ills.  It’s just one of many channels with which to communicate with the world.

Despite the fact I put a great deal of detail into the blog about the role it was clear that almost no one (inside or outside of the company) read it all.

Lesson three: Keep it brief…

Categories: Service Management