Posted on : 05-01-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service
I have been lucky to watch a lot of positive change at different companies. Just to play a small part in that change can be very exciting, but it got me thinking: what generates change? For years businesses have concentrated on data and numbers. For most businesses the most important number is the bottom line. I am not opposed to numbers, and I recognize for a company to survive the bottom line is extremely important. This concentration on the numbers, sometimes has had an unintentional impact on the actual Customer experience. Trust me, every leader I have ever worked with has understood the benefits of a long term Customer relationship, and they never intended to create a negative experience. There are cultural barriers in business that have been created over the years, not just due to numbers, but in some cases the culture of generations ago. No one ever wants to pass bad news up the chain of command. Don’t you feel bad for the person bringing in a surprise for a quarterly with bad numbers? Now that is a job I would never want! In many companies the culture has not been to opt not to share bad information, or say no to something. Sometimes they just sugar coat bad news. The gen Y, or millennial generation is helping to change that because they do not play by those rules.
So here is what I think happens:
The CEO and other top leaders are reviewing the company quarterly reports. The conversation is rather lengthy. Early in the conversation the CEO says we really need to improve profit margins. Later during that same conversation he notices that widgets have very nice profit margins. This rightfully gets translated into we need to sell more widgets. This makes its way through various leaders and now everyone is concentrated on selling widgets. Marketing is placing widgets everywhere on the website. Customer service was now asked to sell more widgets, which eventually translated to the supervisors and agents that they must sell widgets on every call. The Customer is now being bombarded with offers for the widget everywhere they turn. So even if they only need a Whatchamacallit, they were told they need a widget to go with it. One of the Customer Service agents knows there is a problem with the widgets, and they have a high return rate. The agent tells his supervisor that these widgets “suck”, but the supervisor does not recognize it as a problem and fails to share with others. Maybe the supervisor just didn’t want to listen! It is not until further analysis of the numbers that this information turns up. During this sales effort they also alienated Customers because they did not know they needed the widget, but finally gave in and purchased it. They then returned it to only find the trouble with the next widget. Now the Customer lost trust in the company.
Now, lets imagine instead of stating that the widgets “suck” the agent turned to the supervisor and said:
I would like to share the story of Sally. Sally called looking for Whatchamacallit but instead we sold her Widgets that she did not need. Sally had to wait a week to receive the Widgets, but when they finally arrived they were broken. She then called us back and we sent a pick up authorization, which did not come to her until a week later. She then returned the Widgets and we mailed her new Widgets, which were broken again. So she just called for a new return authorization, so I tried to offer her a Whatchamacallit to help get her doohicky to fully work. She told me forget about it, she is just getting a Whatchamacallit from Walmart because we just can’t get it right. Sally was very frustrated with us.
Imagine this story made it to the CEO. They probably didn’t intend to create this negative experience for Sally, and if they heard about it, they too would be as upset as Sally. Connecting to Customers through stories are the real driver for change. Stories come through on calls, emails, and through social media.
Your story could impact the bottom line!