Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why don’t you LISTEN to your customer?

I have said many times how much I love the modern technology and how it has made life so much easier.

But great customer care is still ALWAYS and ONLY about PEOPLE!!!!

I’ve had a huge argument this evening with my car insurance company.

I’ve got 3 months to my annual renewal and I rang them to let them know my new address as we recently moved. I was told my new postcode comes up on their ‘information system’ as a higher premium area than my old postcode area – that’s fair enough I thought. They then tell me I have to pay £70 for the remaining three months because of this.

£70 represents 26% of my current annual premium and if my maths are correct means I would be paying an additional £280 extra premium next year simply because I’ve moved 7 miles!

I argued with the person on the phone who could only say ‘That’s what the system is telling me.’ So I asked to speak to someone higher up. After a while a ‘supervisor’ of some sort came on the phone and I had a similar discussion and a similar stonewall, immovable and totally inflexible, robotic, scripted reply.

I asked why, as a loyal customer of this company for 15 years, I could not get any dispensation. All she could say was what the automatic information system was telling her. I repeated many times how this was appalling customer service – she didn’t see anything wrong with the customer service. The mere fact she cannot understand why I thought it was terrible customer service tells me all I need to know.

In one fleeting moment of weakness she gave away that she was human after all by admitting that hands are now tied by processes and even the remotest element of initiative and flexibility has been wiped out by strict processes and protocols.

It amazes me …. For all the years I’ve been with this company I’ve told friends, family and other people how good they are. I have always recommended them. Will I do that anymore? ….. What do you think?

This ‘supervisor’ finally told me she could ‘escalate’ my compliant if I wanted …. Initially I said that frankly I couldn’t be bothered … I’d almost lost the will to live by this time …. But then I quickly reflected and changed my mind and said that yes I do want to escalate it. She said I will get a call back from a senior person in the next 72 hours about my complaint. I agreed to escalate it ….. Not because I think anyone in this organisation will change their position (I already know there is not a cat in hells chance of that happening) …… But I simply need them to know they now have one mightily unhappy and previously very loyal customer who, on principle, will not now renew with them come May after 15 years as a customer … And they clearly just don’t give a toss about that.

It is desperately sad how a ‘system’ has crushed the flexibility judgement and initiative of humans. These folks now have an ‘information system’ that gives them only exact and totally inflexible answers. It almost makes me cry that computers have been so ‘mis-used’ in this way.

This company has taken away all emotion and human decision making. It has given in to the ‘machines rule people’ concept …. I am saddened.

Some questions to this company …. Unless I’m missing something very obvious this stuff is really not difficult …. Any 10 year old will understand this ….

Give me one good reason why you upset a very loyal and long standing customer for the sake of a process?

Why don’t you LISTEN to your customer?

Why the hell are your humans beings not allowed to make judgements based on emotion, common sense and the real world?

Why don’t you LISTEN to your customer?

Don’t you realise that customers treated badly and made angry will tell as many people as they can about you?

Why don’t you LISTEN to your customer?

Where does your arrogance come from with your lack of customer responsiveness that implies “Oh well … he will stay with us” …. (By the way …I’ve got news for you … Oh no he won’t!!)

Why don’t you LISTEN to your customer?

All summed up perfectly by business turnaround guru, Victor Palmieri who said:

“Strategies are okayed in boardrooms that even a child would know are doomed to fail. The problem is there’s never a child in the boardroom”


Tom Asacker said...

How sad, and unfortunately all to common. There's really only one way out of this madness, and that's to bust these big businesses into hundreds of very small businesses. Give the woman who talked with you 100 clients and hold her, and her supervisor, responsible for those clients' happiness, profitability, and growth through word-of-mouth and referral business. We've disconnected people from the essence of business, which is the creation and nurturing of satisfied customers. It's time to reconnect them!

Trevor Gay said...

Agree with you Tom. Small is definitely beautiful. It’s not that front line people in large organisations are bad people; it’s just that the senior managers in large organisations forget they are supposed to be offering a SERVICE to the customer not presenting a PROBLEM to the customer.

As always your wisdom is based on Simplicity my friend. Take care and keep it simple

Anonymous said...

For Heaven's sake Tom!

Don't you know what would happen?

Each frontline client concierge would start making independent decisions to better serve customers outside policy, they'd talk to each other and exchange ideas, things wouldn't be standardised, managers would turn into support staff instead of bosses, customers would rave about being treated as individuals and encourage all their friends to use the company and they'd rave to their friends and the company would have to hire and train more staff to keep up with the new business and...

Oh wait- what are we here for anyway?

To give the shareholders a great ROI by outrageously satisfying customers, yes?

OK, maybe this would work.

Trevor Gay said...

Anonymous - now come on I don’t want these radical ideas on my Blog!! …..Giving power to front liners indeed!! - Whatever next? ... I suppose you will be suggesting we allow people on the front line to actually make decisions …Wars have start with less anarchical suggestions!!!

J.KANNAN said...

Hi Trevor,

I do agree with the views of Asacker, and yourm predicament,it was rather unfortunate and sad to note that the customer care interaction was aweful, substandard doesn't speak of good at all about the service provider.These sorts of guys shoud be educated of the fact.........that they can't spell S(U)CCESS with out "U" C(u)stomer and those are the olden days the customer is called KING now its.............."Customer is God" and its because of the grace of the customer many of us are able to enjoy 3 square meal a day and other facilities and privileges for us and our family in our day to day life, and I don't how these guys dare to neglect the customer and at times even behave and conduct in adverse and dirty manner................and its due to nothing but lack of proprt indoctrination and training by the managers to the front liners dealing with customers. I have nothing but to say to console all the affected ones.................."WHAT CAN NOT BE CURED MUST BE ENDURED"........Is there any better solution.....I welcome it.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks JK - I simply do not understand why some people at the top of organisations just don't 'get' the fact you must love your customer!

Trevor Binch said...

Hi Trev. The other Trev here. Showcase cinemas made my blood boil last week. As a massive movie fan, I go to the flicks probably once a week. I always have a hot dog and a coke, but i like jalepeno peppers on my hot dog. The have been charging me 50p extra for a portion. A right rip off i know but I have been putting up with it. Lasr week however, a young girl refuses to sell me the portion of peppers.'Oh no, she said, you can only have those with nachos' I said I have been coming for years and you can sell them to me, ' I will go and ask my manager' she said. 2 minutes later she comes back and refuses to sell me the peppers. By this time there is a massive queue behind me. i have already taken a couple of bites from my hot dog and a few slurps of m coke.I am ashamed to say, i lost my temper and pushed the hot dog and coke across the counter and said I didnt want them if they werent going to sell the peppers. I Then stormed off and watched the film hungry and thirsty and in a fowl mood throughout. i now go to Odeon in town. Anyway, the film was 'the kings speech' and it was dead good. Speak soon mate.

Trevor Gay said...

Wonderful story Trevor and a great film - we went to the Odeon last night to watch it ironically enough!

Your story reminds us of pathetic 'jobsworth' attitude. What's happened to judgement, flexibility and emotion?

We now have wonderful,creative, intelligent, imaginative and sensible front line people wqhio have been turned into 'robots' because of STUPID bosses who have not actually seen a customer for a few decades - thats my conclusion anyway

J.KANNAN said...

Hi Trevor,

If only one knows the Art of Loving the Customer, that person need not learn the Art of Selling to the Customer.............this out of my personal experience and I was successful and still maintaining the statusquo.Learn to LOVE. SELL & SERVICE...............your customer(s)



Trevor Gay said...

I think you are 100% correct JK

In my experience, I am sad to say, far too many managers don't like the word 'love'- they see it as some kind of soft, fluffy, flowery language - they are WRONG!

As far as I am concerend the word LOVE is at the heart of this debate.

We MUST 'love' our customer - no question as far as I'm concerned.

Marilyn Jess said...

Hi Trevor,

And how many folk will you now tell about this poor service? Companies don't seem to care about that, do they?

Congratulations on a wonderful Ken Rawley style story--he is my marketing hero who wrote a column in a local business newspaper about his customer experiences, good and not so good.

Trevor Gay said...

Marilyn - yesterday I spoke to (an allegedly) ‘senior’ person who’s job is to deal with what they call ‘escalated’

I said to him quite openly and up front I will now be telling lots of people how bad their customer service is...

I reminded him of how many people I had told in the past how good the service had been – I’ve been with this company for many years!!

Believe me Marilyn there was not even the slightest glimpse of empathy or simply UNDERSTANDING the point I was trying to make

He verbally ‘shrugged his shoulders’ and didn't make any comment.

I even said to him “So you are quite happy to lose loyal customers of many years standing who just leave you in an angry disillusioned and frustrated state?”

Again no emotional response ….. Just that ‘Its policy” kind of attitude

Oh well … their loss as far as I’m concerned …

Anonymous said...

Hi Trevor-

I forgot to sign my anonymous rant at the top.

And yes- if you mean radical as right to the roots, I agree it would be world-changing, for the owners as well as employees, to give the front-line person authority to, say, put jalepeno peppers on the hot dog or give a long-term policy holder a better rate.

Here's another thought on customer service-;more-from-section

Just what's so bad about making customers happy anyway?

Lois Gory

Trevor Gay said...

Brilliant Lois!!! - Thanks for the link. Charm schools for front liners Eh? - What about charm schools for leaders who treat their front liners like lumps of meat.

Its leadership where it all goes wrong - not at the front line - we all know that.

On the other hand the best leaders just 'get' this customer stuff intuitively.

Unknown said...


As a Trainer of customer service folks I tell every student I will hunt them down every time I hear them say "I apologize for the inconvenience"...the emptiest words in service...or any phrase that's using the words "my system" as in "my system is running slow today" what, your digestive system? Heating and air?

I work for a large wireless telephone company and I frequently take escalated calls to help reps out when they can't find their manager, which is why I am frequently helping with escalations. We train our reps to be advocates for our customers and they have a 250.00 credit limit each call. If the customer isn't happy with their resolution, they are to engage a manager and have them work with the customer. All I want to know before I take over a call is the issue,and what the rep offered. As you point out however Trevor, the problem is most often with the frontline manager and front line work processes where the performance expectation is 100% quality and customer satisfaction but the performance metrics measure quantity...handle time, hold time, repeat calls etc. I'll take a rep with high AHT and low repeats any time, any day.

Don't recall the title but I was reading a Jim Collins book where he said "The true definition of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The true definition of mediocrity is inconsistency" To me, that nails it as the biggest challenge in the service industry. A new paradigm is also needed for customers...decades of "customer focus" has created (my industry) a culture where free and unlimited would not meet there expectation since a it didn't come with a free iPhone or Blackberry. If it costs me money to keep you as a customer, should I do it?

Trevor Gay said...

Dave - As a customer I love it when a front liner solves my problem without having to refer the matter to a supervisor. I'm sure front liners are capable of solving most customer problems and the main reason they can’t is not because customer expectations are too high but because front liners power is too little.

Unknown said...


Thank you for your kind comment.

Ken Rawley