Monday, February 19, 2007

Customer Care

Some thoughts on Customer Care. This audio blog is 3 minutes and 39 seconds.


Annie said...

Ms Unhelpful makes Basil Fawlty sound like Mother Theresa!

I like the 'up yours' t.shirt :-)

Trevor Gay said...

An 'up yours' t shirt it is for your next birthday darling :-)

Phil Gerbyshak said...

Nice podcast Trevor. I think that there are quite a few folks who "don't give a toss" but there are still many who do. Perhaps you could interview one of them and ask them why they keep doing what they do, even in the face of opposition? Might make for a fun podcast.

David Wike said...

Organisations get the people they deserve broadly speaking. If an organisation doesn’t care about its employees, doesn’t value them, doesn’t make them feel that they are doing something important, then you tend to get ‘morons’ – a slightly harsh description Trevor!

Unfortunately ‘customer care’ is often seen as something that you have to have rather than an approach that you want to have. It is a necessary evil that must be carried out ‘cost effectively’, so you find low cost employees (the young and inexperienced) and give them basic training, a script and a set of rules. I’ll give you an example:

Someone I know bought some Fairtrade bananas from a supermarket. The label gave the country of origin as ‘Code 38’ or some such number. My friend was curious to find where the bananas came from, so called customer relations. She was asked for her details – name/address/phone number etc. She pointed out that this was not information that they needed to answer her query. But obviously the girl who answered the phone was trained to ask for this and was not prepared to consider answering the query until she had the required information. My friend was not prepared to disclose her contact details as she didn’t want to find herself on the supermarkets mailing list. As a result she still does not know the source of the bananas and is pretty disenchanted with said supermarket.

The problem of course was that the girl in customer relations had been programmed to go through a routine rather than use her imagination. If you were given a set of rules rather than be allowed to think and use your initiative Trevor, could you honestly say that you would remain enthusiastic about your telephone answering role?

I could go on to give an example of a company that empowers its staff to make ‘executive decisions’ but I have taken up enough space already, so maybe another time.

Trevor Gay said...

Phil – that is a great idea – I may pursue that!

I agree there are many people who do this really well and I think I said my guess would be about 40% doing it well. It is the 60% that worry me when their job title is customer care and frankly most of them sound and act as if they don’t care.

David – Sorry – Ok … I accept MORON may be a wee bit strong but come on my friend this is SUPPOSED to be the customer CARE department!! Why oh why do we put these people in a department called customer care? – This is not rocket science.

Great story about the supermarket and the complete lack of flexibility in rules resulting in a lack of sensitive customer care – SOUNDS BANANAS TO ME :-)

And finally David you are absolutely right about my job satisfaction - I simply couldn’t go on in those circumstances you describe if I was that employee. I would leave that job because I am not a robot and refuse to be treated like one.

David Wike said...

I still think that the real problem lies with the organisation, not the individual. Firstly, of course it is important to select people who are appropriate for the job, but then it is crucial to train them well and empower them to be able to take whatever action is required to keep the customer happy. Too often so called customer care departments are just there to be a buffer between the rest of the company and the customer.

Of course, some individuals in customer care will always try that bit harder than others to please the customer, but I wonder how many organisations take the trouble to really explain that, in many ways, customer care is the most important department in the company. And coming back to your old gripe about NHS hospital chief executives, how many have actually met a customer?

Moving my thinking to the next stage, should organisations have a specific customer care department? Shouldn’t that be everyone’s responsibility? A bit more difficult to organise I know, but it is a similar principle to doing away with the quality department and making everyone responsible for the quality of their part of the operation.

But of course, to operate in such an enlightened way needs an organisational philosophy that supports it, which means that everyone from the chief executive downwards has to be totally committed and involved. Perhaps we need to look harder at role models such as Branson, Bannatyne and Semler.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David and thanks again

I agree there is a leadership issue and the leaders need to get their hands dirty but I still think individual employees in a customer CARE department should as an absolute minimum be able to CARE. If they don’t know how to CARE they should not be in customer CARE.

You said - ’And coming back to your old gripe about NHS hospital chief executives, how many have actually met a customer?’

Answer – probably 1% of CEO’s do it regularly and as normal part of their duties - and that may be an overestimate. The other 99% would not recognise a patient if one slapped their face.

Whenever specialist departments are set up e.g. customer care a lot of other people in the organisation assume they suddenly no longer need to worry about customer care because there is a ‘department’ looking after that. My opinion is that customer care applies to cleaners and backroom finance staff - who may never meet customers - just as much as it does to front line staff who meet customers every day. Genuinely caring for customers is cultural – it is a hearts and minds thing and it comes from the top. It should run through the veins of all employees

I am in total agreement about looking hard at role models like Branson, Bannatyne and Semler.