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

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

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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