This Result Is A Product Of A Flawed System

This headline and its story came up in my Twitter Feed

Bell admits ‘error’ after it charged customer $6,474.17 when he went over data limit

 What is instructive about that? Everyone makes errors.

Try to imagine how this result can make sense to a corporate planner or an executive. It must be very easy to get customers at Bell.

The story shows that the error,  which Bell admitted, was not resolved in real time. I don’t know how complex the Bell accounting system may be, (I assume very) but I doubt there is any reason to expect it would take someone with access more than a day to resolve this problem. More likely not 30 minutes.

Why months and the expense of a lawyer?

Because the customer service system is built around metrics that are not client-centric. They are built around making sure that no customer can take advantage of the institution.

Think the government, airlines, and banks. Their customer service inertia is mind boggling. I have a letter on file from the Canada Revenue Agency that includes the thought, “We are very busy. We expect to consider your request in approximately six months.”

Client service is a profit center.

Despite the cost to do this right, in today’s highly competitive world, client service is cheaper than acquiring new customers from the pool of the ones that don’t know any  of your existing customers.

There is no shortage of lapses in customer care. Someone has suggested that you could eliminate drug usage if you made Comcast customer service the only supplier. Try not to be successful in spite of yourself.

Customer service must be responsive to customers not to the business.

One trick some institutions use to defeat you is indefinite postponement of action.

Every customer service department has two choices.

  1. Solve the problem
  2. Make the complainant go away

When running into type 2 responses, like Bell’s response above, keep careful notes and record telephone conversations. I don’t know all the rules about recording telephone conversations in other places, but in Canada as long as one party knows it is being recorded, it is okay. I like this approach. “Your system said you are recording this call for quality control and training purposes. I am recording it too.”

Why is customer service not responsive to customers?

Many people today want to cover up their mistakes instead of repairing them. Today’s connected world makes that a high risk approach.

As management specialist Edwards Deming pointed out 60 years ago, all quality problems are designed in. If businesses actually care about customer service failures, the first useful aspect of that concern is to be accountable.

Being accountable means fixing errors promptly. Accountability by multi-layer committee fails. The further away from the customers a manger is, the less urgency there is.

Design in authority for front line employees. If you train them well, a big if, they will act responsibly.

If you can’t trust them, there is something wrong with your training, your hiring,  or your supervision processes.

People expect reasonable customer service.

You will be taken advantage of a little because some of your customers are devious. You can deal with those easily enough.  Your accounting system can isolate them very quickly. It is wrong to assign a bad reputation to all customers for the sake of weeding out a small percentage.

If you don’t provide reasonable customer service, your only hope for long term survival is that none of your competitors figure out the value of it before you do.

No one wins the race to the bottom?

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  866-285-7772


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