Where did it all go wrong!!

Those of you who have taken the time to read my previous blogs rants (thank you) and those who know me, understand that I’m passionate about Customer Service and Experience. This week’s blog is a result of two prompts. One inspired by a social media post by a well-respected, former colleague where she asked “Just one bad headline after another at the moment. What is going on?” and the second a Job Description recently posted by a household name business in the service sector.

Both caused me again to reflect on the state of customer service in the UK and beyond right now. We still hear the buzz words and the platitudes but beneath it all is a short sighted, inwardly and operationally focussed approach. What ought to be done to drive customer satisfaction, customer advocacy and customer referral is secondary and as a result we’re getting it spectacularly wrong.

I’ve experienced a culture where “It’s all about the customer” was truely front and centre. It had to be. That organisation relied solely on word of mouth referral for growth and success. That was followed up with a “Where we lead others follow” mantra and by god they did. But it changed!

That business was acquired and the new management knew better. They brought in the people who thought they did Customer Experience well but they were simply the sheep, who did it by the trend, the fashion, the buzz word. Not by what’s right, from the heart, with true belief and true desire. The spreadsheet and the score card ruled and it bit them. Ignore customer at your peril, unless you’ve got deep pockets and are prepared to soak up the fines, lose the business or deal with the litigation!

In this industry we’ve gotten complacent. We’ve let the scorecard, the spreadsheet, the process rule and we’ve rejected real life customer experience, growth, advocacy, referral. We’re focussed on net adds, EBIT, and we’ve forgotten the one thing which produces both – CUSTOMER!

I can’t help but wonder if part of it is also driven by the short termist, transient approach which exists within our industry. Directors, Execs and senior managers, focussing on today, next year and what shines on the CV or LinkedIn profile. The next poor sod can clean up the shit, take the scorecard hit and explain away the fine, but we’ll earn the bonus this year and next and then move on. Harsh perhaps, but a real consideration.

We are increasingly led by a date, a project, a deliverable and we get there based on a short term, blinkered need as opposed to a long term, strategic customer focussed plan. We’ve become arrogant and hope we get away with it. Ignoring the customer is an approach we’ll never get away with. It WILL always catch up.

When I look at the Customer Service or Customer Experience org charts of today, we’re slowly removing “Customer” from the job titles. Customer Service managers became Contact Centre managers and then morphed into Business Managers. The job descriptions are written by recruiters or HR people who are a million miles away from the customer and the hiring managers are from a culture where customer is secondary to internal operations. We’re filling our young managers heads full of soooo much bullshit and buzz words and driving focus primarily internally that there’s precious little room for true customer focus. I looked at an 832 word role profile for a middle management, customer service role here in the UK. The opening paragraph paid lip service to “Customer”. Filled with the buzz words of the day but totally meaningless in context with what ought to be the true raison d’ etre for the role.  The day in the life of section and core skills were so inwardly, operationally focussed and lacking customer at the heart, it nearly made me weep. That was a light bulb moment for me.

We’re working to a “customer” service ethic which has been 10 years in the making destruction which puts the business first and the customer last. We’re seeing an attitude of “someone will sort it next year” but when next year comes another shiny new priority is in play and poor old customer is pushed to the back again. It’s got to stop. It’s costing businesses real money, causing long term damage to already dented reputations and creating a world where customers distrust us all.

The cost of our actions is coming home to roost, not least in the impact to our P&L’s. We reap what we sow!

Experience surpasses mere knowledge!