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Systems Failure – leads to a bad customer experience!

headshot2013Do you check out if your staff need training? Do do carry out regular training or learning needs assessments?

Far too many companies decide on training on a whim without checking out if A) it’s needed and B) without linking it to an objective; what you want someone to be able to do as a result of the training.

So why not? Too often a customer complains about the way they feel they have been treated. The result? The company goes into overdrive and puts everyone through a sheep dip customer service programme. Another situation I see far too much is when a staff member asks for training or signs up to an internal workshop programme without being expected to use the learning or even share it. Any old training is not the panacea people hope for it simply becomes a complete waste of money.


You may, of course, need to arrange training for a number of reasons. You probably do when you have got new staff or taking somebody on to do a new job. You may also decide to promote one of your staff to the role of manager. Interestingly it seems we are more likely to choose a manager who has been brilliant at his/her job but does not have the management skills required. The skill they need will be inherently different from their previous role of just doing the job but it doesn’t mean they need to go on a full management programme. A Training Needs Analysis can identify that their resourcing skills and personal organisation skills are above standard for the job but that they need to learn more about managing a team or coaching individuals. They may also need enhanced negotiation or delegating skills. Easy then to find the right training at the right time and the right price.

Training is not always the answer and again a training needs analysis may demonstrate that too. Recently I was invited into a large manufacturing company who convinced me they needed training for their staff in handling difficult conversations with their customers. It seems most of their callers were aggressive and demanding and the staff were finding it difficult to cope to with the barrage of irritable calls.

I started with one of my favourite exercises – mapping out the customer’s journey and almost immediately we were able to identify the source of these difficult conversations. It appears that at busy times (not enough call handlers?) customers were waiting for up to 15 minutes for their call to be answered. What’s more, there was no friendly voice telling them where they were in the queue or even that ubiquitous “your call is important to us” message! No, it seems what they were forced to listen to was advertising for all the company products many of which were now no longer made or distributed (the tape was four years old) And they wondered why their customers were so disagreeable. The worst thing was the staff knew this. However, they had been told it was too expensive to change the tape. So I was paid generously for training that wasn’t needed.

It is a highly competitive world now. Customers nearly always have a choice of supplier and you can’t afford not to know whether your staff are incompetent or your systems are leading to disaster. You can’t afford now to continue with “sheep dip” training that gets everybody along and train them in one competence that your organisation neither needs nor uses.

2 thoughts on “Systems Failure – leads to a bad customer experience!

  1. The reason why British businesses, by and large, get customer service wrong (as your email asked), is that British businesses and British people, by and large, have an animus around service. They believe that offering service necessarily requires them to be servile, to consider the customer better than them, and to adopt a position of servitude. And they’ll be damned if they are going to do that.

    I’m afraid that offering training won’t deal with the problem because the problem isn’t behavioural; it is attitudinal and you can’t train someone to have a better attitude.

    Your example of the “large manufacturing company” makes the point. Messages on tape loops make the company more important than the customer.

    Far from offering any meaningful service to customers, call centres have one and only one purpose: to prevent the customers annoying the managers. Given that call centre operatives are provided with inadequate resources and inadequate authority (as individuals, they are essentially set up to fail by the company), is it any wonder that any understanding they might have of ‘service’ long since shrivelled up?

    So, the key people who need the attitudinal shift aren’t the people at the ‘phone-face’ (although they do), it is their managers and, preferably, the CEO.
    JeremyMarchant recently posted..What is a ‘facilitating environment’?My Profile

    1. Thank you for your comment Jeremy I think you are right that much of the service is poor in the UK because of attitudes as well as systems. Perhaps we need to carry out much deeper TNAs or audits but companies are loathe to look beyond what they perceive to be the obvious. Quick Fixes are the norm. Paul Matthews of Alchemy was saying much the same in his seminar yesterday at the CIPD ACE conference in Manchester.

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