There are certain things that signal a good chance of failing in a customer service program. If any of these situations exist, you must turn them around before you can hope to achieve success.

  1. The person in charge of your customer service program is not widely respected in the organization. The position is given to someone to "get them out of the way" and no one really expects them to achieve any results.
  2. Your employees -- the ones who deliver the customer service -- have low morale and poor, cynical attitudes. They have not been involved in the development of the program from the beginning.
  3. The CEO or business owner is not dedicating the time required to lead the effort.
  4. Cross-functional teams within your organization are not working effectively. Even if you only have two employees, they must work together harmoniously in order to achieve exceptional customer service.
  5. You do not have a systematic, integrated program for training and other initiatives to move the customer service program along.
  6. You let empty slogans, posters, buttons, and other fluffy approaches be the guiding strategy rather than real changes based on systems and procedures. The CEO or business owner tries to motivate the troops at the annual meeting or weekly get-together by telling everyone how much the company or organization believes in customer service. Then he goes back to the office and cuts expenses by firing staff so there is no way the harried customer service representative can hope to give exceptional service.
  7. Management simply does not believe that customer service really affects the bottom line. They often trim any business activity whose impact on profits is not immediately obvious.
  8. Management treats this initiative as just another "flavor of the month." They get distracted by more pressing problems and fail to get into the game for the long haul. A service management program involves long-term, organizational change. Short-term thinking leads to failure.
  9. The customer service training you deliver is of the "smile" or "be nice" variety that does nothing but put a Band-Aid on the real cause of the problems. That kind of training is important, yes, but it is only one part of a customer service program.
  10. You talk a good game of customer service, but your incentive system rewards something else. You reward people for things like increased sales rather than for customer satisfaction.
  11. You don't measure excellent customer service. Customer service goals are stated in fuzzy terms like "be helpful to the customer" and "serve the customer promptly."
  12. Your system is overregulated with mounds of paper and complicated procedures to follow that no one can understand, least of all the employees serving the customers. Your policy manual is 12 inches thick so that no one ever bothers to look at it. You have tried to anticipate every work situation your employees will encounter with customers, rather than giving them parameters within which to work.
  13. The organization doesn't listen to the customer. They assume they know what the customer wants and then delivers that.

This material was excerpted from Customer Service -- the Key to Your Competitive Edge, a common-sense guide to establishing a customer service program, by Peggy Morrow. Morrow is a speaker, author, consultant, and president of Peggy Morrow & Associates, a training and development firm specializing in highly customized speeches, seminars, and workshops.

Copyright © 1995 by Peggy Morrow