Saturday, August 26, 2006

Stupidity – Day Three!

The inimatable Basil Fawlty - some people's customer-care role model I think!

Today’s offering concerns front line customer care.

Can anyone explain why managers appoint people to front line jobs with customer contact who just do not seem to have any respect for the customer?

To me this is simple – appoint people who can empathise and understand the customer - surely this is a no brainer?

Soooooo …. How come I constantly meet morose people dealing with customers?

The customer is made to feel like an inconvenience and an interruption to the tranquility the staff seem to feel they are entitled to enjoy. These people do not smile, they deal with the customer with a dismissive tone of voice and they make little or no eye contact. I am convinced there just has to be a training school from which such people graduate with honours after weeks or months of intensive training.

It really cannot be that difficult or challenging to find the right people to 'front' your business.

Anyone who owns a business is being represented by the person who is interacting with the customer. Next time you have a confrontation with the sort of person I am talking about, why don’t you send a quick e–mail to the owner of the business to explain they are being represented by someone who makes Basil Fawlty seem like Mother Theresa.

That is three really good rants off my chest but I must be careful - I have never been a moaner but I am starting to enjoy bringing out these ironic practices!

I will give thought to my next Stupidity award - any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Trevor, of the three you have brought up, this is the one that amazes me the most. The location you want your best and brightest, and they put the lowest paid, least friendly, frowning, inept, person to represent the company to visitors and customers alike. Basil Fawlty indeed!

Steve Sherlock said...

This is a good one Trevor. You do need to have the right people on the bus and in the proper seat. How companies fail to do so in such a simple task is baffling.

Trevor Gay said...

Many thanks Larry and Steve – happy Sunday guys!

Maybe we 3 are the only people in the business world who see these things ………. I think not :-)

Although many people might think I am pedantic or obsessive about what I see as ‘management stupidity’ I feel strongly that we need to expose such practices. The companies that perpetuate stupidity will suffer in the end I have no doubt.

Mike Gardner said...

C'mon, admit it--you found Basil Fawlty so funny because you empathized with him very closely, didn't you? Didn't we all? I used to be in food service and when I left that work I vowed never to be in a position with close customer contact again. Most customers are OK, but the few who go out of their way to make the employee feel like a piece of garbage stuck to the customer's shoe can ruin that employee's ability to effectively be a front person forever. Trust me on this one, because I've "been there and done that." Next time you are confronted with this type of customer service employee look at the previous customer for the reason the employee behaves like Basil.

(But pay me no mind, I'm from Barcelona!)

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mike

Hope you had a good vacation

I know your comment has got to be tongue in cheek– Even if I look a little bit like Basil I hope I am not really like him in my manner :-)

I too worked face to face with customers as a barman bar for nearly ten years and have to say 99% of customers are great … if you are great with them - that sounds fair to me.

The problem is not with customers – the problem is with the staff. I just don’t understand why obnoxious staff don't understand that they are there to offer a service to someone who is at the end of the day parting with money for a service.

Oh how I wish this was the motto of all customer care staff

Bombay Hospital Motto

A patient is the most important person in our Hospital. He is not an interruption to our work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our Hospital, he is a part of it. We are not doing a favour by serving him, he is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.

Mahatma Gandhi

Dmitry Linkov said...

What can be said - you are fully right. I think top management MUST care about such things. And moreover, top management can change the entire situation on the market.

Let's imagine - all companies starting from tomorrow, begin to select their staff much better. So a man, that usually get the work, suddenly cannot get it, because, for example "he is not kind enough with the customer...".

So he goes from one company to another and still couldn't get a job. The only thing he will be left to do is to improve himself or his abilities. Not to be a wall, that cannot politely talk to customer, but to be a human.

This requires time, forces and perception of the problem from top managers. But today most of them don't have this perception. What do they learn at MBA?

Trevor Gay said...

Thank you Dmitry for your astute comments on this. I worry about what young managers are learning in their MBA’s. Top if the list for those course should be valuing your staff and valuing your customers – EVERYTHING ELSE on the curriculum is less important than understanding your staff and customers. Managers will NEVER learn from books or MBA's about how to be kind human beings. We are either kind or we are not kind - we cannot ‘train’ people to be kind and caring people. The best we can do is to raise their awareness about their manner and hope that they have the self awareness to improve. In my experience mangers that are prepared to ‘get their hands dirty’ by talking directly with customers and front line staff are always more likely to illustrate the right behaviour. It has always intrigued me that we have to send anyone on a course about customer care because if people can just look in the mirror and ask themselves ‘how would I like to be treated as a customer?’ – That should be all the training customer care staff need.

Dmitry Linkov said...


During 2 years I was thinking that the main priciple in every situation is "treat people the same way you want to be treated" (this is well known phrase, i hope i wrote it right in english). After that not long time ago I read somewhere (where???) that this phrase is the same in all religios books!

I think it's even not a religion thing - it's just a unique rule for our world. It works in life, it works in business, it works in customer care.

Trevor Gay said...

You are correct Dmitry - treating others as we would wish to be treated is indeed a good rule for life. I always used to think when I worked in the NHS - Would I be happy to be a patient in this hospital? - Sometimes I would not and that's a real problem but it is a good rule for all of us to use!