Poor Customer Service – Whose Fault is It?

Service Oriented Staff and Management
Service Oriented Staff and Management

Who is to Blame for Poor Customer Service – Management or the Staff Themselves?

This was the question posed on a Customer Experience Management discussion forum board.  While on the surface I can see that this question can be answered both ways, it really comes down to one party’s responsibility – the management.

Management sets the tone for the customer service standards and expectations

I think it is first and foremost the responsibility of top level management. They set the tone for the customer service attitudes and exemplify the attitude of service that should be delivered to all customers, both internal and external. They are the leaders of the organizations and will set the examples by what they do and say.  Top level management needs to support mid-level managers and front line supervisors in the area of service.  They need to encourage all management levels to think in terms of service and how to best partner with the customer.  What can be done to get rid of the obstacles that are facing the customers?  What can be done to make the entire process easier, if not enjoyable, when doing business with the company itself.

Top Level Management Needs to Listen to the Mid-Level Managers and Front-Line Supervisors

Listening to the feedback and ideas presented by mid-level management and front lines supervisors provides incredible value.  These folks are the ones in your company that are working directly with the customer, or supporting someone who does.  They are hearing what the customers are asking for, they know what the customers like, what they don’t like. They know how the customers use the product or service and what could be changed or, if need be, improved.  When this information flows back up the organizational chart, the highest levels of management need to reinforce the attitude of service by encouraging feedback, actively listening to it, and responding appropriately.

The Right Hiring Decisions Need to be Made to Support Leadership Expectations

From there, the right hiring decisions need to be made. If you hire folks who are not service oriented in their mindset, it is a recipe for failure. By hiring the right people within your company, you are consistent with the culture and everyone works in the best interest of the customer.  You need to make sure that you are supporting and encouraging the service expectations.  Should sub-standard service be noticed, coaching needs to happen quickly to determine the cause.  The solution would be to set clear service expectations and counsel on how to achieve those, or, the less pleasant but essential step, to correct a poor hiring decision.

Customer service training is essential to the success of any organization – large or small.  Customer service is essentially connecting people to a process when delivering a product or service.  The key is to have the right people in place with the right customer service skills and training.  All efforts need to be focused around the needs of the customer. When working in the best interest of the customer, you are ultimately working in the best interest of your organization.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the balance of responsibility here.  How much do you feel is up to the staff and how much falls on the shoulders of management?  What specifically do you think management should do to improve the experience for the customer?

3 Replies to “Poor Customer Service – Whose Fault is It?”

  1. Kristina, I will likely return to Famous Footwear to buy shoes for a few reasons: it’s nearby, they have a descent selection of children’s shoes, and we are enrolled in its program to receive coupons by mail. That said, you don’t necessarily build a loyal and profitable customer base as a result of location or discounting. A competitor offering comparable value and better customer service can always open up nearby and differentiate themselves through quality customer service. When that happens, customers may very well choose to vote with their feet and shop across the street.

  2. Kristina, another short post that’s packed with truth. I especially like the part about management reinforcing the expectations of frontline service providers by modeling the desired behavior and setting the example. Too often, managers hold themselves to a unique set of standards that differs from those that apply to frontline employees. Just yesterday, I was buying a pair of shoes for my son at Famous Footware. When the manager came to the front of the store to assist the cashier with my transaction, he never even acknowledged me as he conversed with the cashier and used his key to allow the transaction. The irony is that he is the person (who should be) encouraging, modeling, and holding his staff accountable to expressing genuine interest in customers by smiling, making eye contact, and adding a bit of enthusiasm to his voice.

    1. You are so right, Steve. That manager set the example that the customer doesn’t really even need to be acknowledged, much less treated as a guest. Imagine if this were how we treated guests in our home? We’d have no friends. That’s why we need to treat customers as guests. If the sales staff don’t know how to do this, management needs to train. The customer is the guest in our business that spends their money with us to keep us in business. That manager did a poor job of modeling the service that we hope to receive. I’m guessing you will be more likely to buy your shoes elsewhere next time. Isn’t it sad that businesses don’t realize that as customers, we are just looking to be treated kindly and will likely come back to you if you provide service just a notch above satisfactory?

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