There can’t be anyone who has not heard that statement at some stage in their lives. The thing is that it has most likely been when in some sort of dilemma, which makes it extremely provoking, even if perfectly valid. No organisation can afford to risk antagonising people in this way and it is therefore a statement that needs to be eliminated – especially if the organisation is serious about customer service.
I would go even further and claim that the statement is evidence of an ailing organisation: one in which there is no recognition either of the importance of the individual or the organisation as a team in which everyone has a key role. Let me explain why.
Last week I received an email notifying me that a scheduled credit card payment had not been processed and asking me to phone urgently to sort the matter out. As I was out of town at the time and had only checked my emails during a five minute interval, this was rather frustrating for there was little I could do about it, either then or any time of the next couple of days. When I duly followed upon my return, I learned that a payment for the princely sum of £3.57 had been rejected, and, after a brief exchange, we established, as I had suspected, the problem stemmed from the fact that my previous credit card had expired and the company now required the details of my replacement card.
I happily provided those to a rather disgruntled sounding lady at the other end of the phone, who then told me, “In future you should advise us before your card expires!” I apologised and said that it quite honestly wasn’t something I had thought about as it really wasn’t a great priority in my life, and, since they must have a number of customers in this position, perhaps they could notify us? There was a chilly response that they didn’t know, followed, when I suggested that their system could perhaps be changed to include this capability, by an even more acerbic, “You will have to raise that with IT; I am only the Credit Controller.”
Of course this is not a situation that should make the “10 O’clock News!” It was only a minor inconvenience and, while mildly irritating, not something to lose any sleep over. Nevertheless, it is a perfect example of a disengaged employee, and illustrates both the lack of customer focus and joined-up thinking that prevails in most companies today, and which gives rise to such disengagement. The fact is that more ownership of the role with a greater sense of teamwork with the rest of the organisation would not only ease the burden on this unhappy Credit Controller, but save time and effort all along the line by all those involved – the Credit Controller, the person processing the payment at the card company and the customer.
Is this really asking too much? Am I being unreasonable? The economic waste of this breakdown is self-evident and if we are all doing things that we need not be doing it is no wonder that we are all feeling unfulfilled, disengaged and ultimately unhappy. It seems to me such attitudes are endemic in most organisations today, and there is a great need, not only to drive home the message that dealing with the customer is everyone’s job, but also to look more closely at:
a) Their people and they way they manage them; and
b) The nature of their customer interactions.
The two are clearly inter-connected, but a business that is committed to improving its customer experience should be actively empowering their people to recognise and affect the circumstances that impact negatively on what they do. This would include being alert to customer input as to how they could improve.