Fire your grumpy staff!

Dominic Monkhouse, Real Business, 4 August 2010

I can’t for the life of me see how great customer service can be delivered by staff who hate or – or don’t enjoy – their jobs. Great service experiences are always a result of someone who is engaged and sees the problem through the customer’s eyes.

The very best experiences often include staff overriding the company process, procedures and systems to do the right thing. That is why companies should at least try to ensure employees aren’t unhappy and don’t hate where they work. It’s a shame not everyone feels the same…

I speak from (unfortunate) experience.

As a consumer I am subjected every day to mind-blowingly rubbish customer service. I was recently forced to speak to an employee at Orange – Orange telephone support; where customers go to die. All I wanted was to edit my account name. There was no reason for me to do this by phone, except that Orange’s spectacular failure to understand its customers and the service they really want left me no choice.

And another example of appalling customer service: I recently bought an iPad. It arrived the day before the official Apple launch day and I got on the web immediately to get the SIM activated. But the website activation functionality didn’t work and I got a popup telling me to call them. My heart sank. I spoke to three people (but was on hold most of the time  – honestly, they have been experiencing “higher than expected call volumes” for so long now, I just wonder how they keep getting caught out!?), responses varied. First: “iPad? What’s that?”; then: “We don’t support it but, yes, I know what it is”; and finally: “No problem, I can do that for you.” They did but it took three hours!”

But then something happened to restore my faith. There are those occasional companies where you find employees who do go to the extra mile.

Flying back to the UK from Texas, my flight to Denver with Continental Airlines was delayed because of snow. I was rerouted to Houston rather than New York in an attempt to get another flight. Larry (his real name) now holds the record for ignoring a human being standing six inches away and attempting to make eye contact. Eventually – and unhelpfully – he told me to fly to Amsterdam. Did he not realise that there’s a sea between the UK and Holland?

Luckily for all of us, another check-in assistant noticed how unimpressed I was. Tina went out of her way (several quick phone calls – while checking in another flight!) to make sure I made it onto a flight to Gatwick leaving in the following 30 minutes. They wrote down my boarding details on a post-it note and I was able to board very easily and took the last seat in first class. Apparently, you can’t legally fly without a boarding card but you can’t print one within 30 minutes of take off, either.

Two weeks later, I received a hand-written note to thank me for flying with Continental and to say thanks for giving them the opportunity to make my day. I wrote back to thank them and to commend the employees who had gone above and beyond to get me home despite processes and systems.

Although this isn’t standard procedure, the company obviously places a great emphasis on allowing staff personal latitude to deliver outstanding customer service. Fantastic!

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About dommonkhouse

Dominic Monkhouse @dommonkhouse entrepreneur, smallholder, Geordie, kite surfing, snowboarding, dog owning, J109 sailor, pilot, husband, father and runner
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2 Responses to Fire your grumpy staff!

  1. Pingback: We give our clients homemade chocolate cake « Service Obsession™

  2. Pingback: Offering a grand to quit and cock-up of the month – how I built my dream team « Service Obsession™

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