Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Importance of Not Ignoring the Problem

As happens quite frequently on today's Internets, someone I admire was sharing a bad customer service story. And, like anyone who exists today, I also have had bad customer service stories.

Ken Mueller wrote a post about a bad experience he had at his local post office, and on Twitter, I mentioned that I had had similar experiences at mine. As I did, I started to think about that particular problem and realized - every single time I had that issue, it was the same exact person who caused it.

I'll bring an envelope or package to any of the other employees, they send it. Person A demands full customs forms for just about every kind of thing one can send, right down to a birthday card. The discrepancy isn't the real pain point though - its the incredulity with which this story is met by any side. I tell her, "Well J let me send this same thing without customs," and she rolls her eyes and shrugs, refusing to send it. I tell that story to J and T at the counter and they shrug and say that they have never heard of such a thing. These three people have been working together for 10 years and this has happened multiple is it that no one had ever encountered that problem but me?

Obviously, that is not the case. What is true is that everyone is ignoring the problem.

J lets things through, because he's the "nice guy" of the staff. T follows the rules by the book, but if the book lets you avoid the customs then you do, but she gets all bent out of shape when you make her add a surcharge for sending something weirdly shaped. A demand all forms be filled out before you get to her window, and you will fill out ALL forms that might, potentially be needed, because probably once she was reprimanded for not doing that.

Here's the problem - there's no consistency between the way they handle things...and no acknowledgement that the others handle things differently.

So you go in and hand the letter with customs form already filled out to J and he scoffs at the form, tells you don't need it, what are you thinking? You hand it to T and she hands it back, but bitches "what's IN here?" and hand it to A and she rolls her eyes at the fact that the zip code is not legible enough. You have to do it over again.

Thinking about your customer service - are you ignoring the problem? Are you or your employees ignoring the actual issue? Is it divide and conquer - "no one else has reported that problem, so it must be you"? Is each person picking up the phone giving a different story, a different process, a different set of requirements?

Imagine if you're your client or customer - you'd want a consistent set of rules and a consistent set of outcomes. Ignore the problem and you're sure to give the consumer the customer service from hell.

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