Great Idea...Bad Execution

By Ron Rosenberg

Personal trainer helping young woman lift weightsIt happened again. And it wasn’t the first time either: my mobile phone stopped working.

This is a big problem, of course, because of the amount of travel I do in any given month.

It doesn’t matter which mobile company we use – they’re all pretty much interchangeable because they all deliver a level of customer service far below anything I would consider even remotely acceptable.

Press “1” for Customer Service...

So I called the customer ser­vice line, navigated three levels of the “phone tree” and finally got through to a live human being. To make a long story short, I ex­plained that this was the third time I had called, and had been getting a complete runaround on each call.

He apologized and promised to address the problem. He didn't. He tried, but he simply didn’t have the authority to correct the situation, and couldn’t get anyone with the appropriate level of authority on the call.

Not at all happy, I asked him to have a supervisor call me back as soon as possible.

No one called.

Can We Ask You a Few Questions?

The next day I got a call. Only it wasn’t a supervisor calling back as I had requested (and as the rep had promised); it was an automated survey call to ask about my satis­faction with my recent call to the customer service line.

When I gave the lowest possible score in response to every ques­tion, the voice said, “It appears that you’re disappointed with the service you received; please press ‘2’ if you’d like to have a member of the “Priority Service Team” call you back within 24 hours.”

“You bet!” I thought, and hit “2” on my phone, eagerly anticipat­ing the call.

The call didn’t come that after­noon, the next morning, or even the next afternoon.

It didn’t come the following day, or even the day after that. On the fourth day, I finally was contacted by a member of the “Priority Ser­vice Team.”

She was very pleasant and polite, and said something like, “Mr. Rosenberg, I see that you were dissatisfied with your recent experi­ence with our customer service department. Can you explain the problem so I can try and take care of it for you?”

I tried to be nice, I really did, but it was just too surreal. I told her, “I had three calls with your company; I spent over an hour all together; and the problem still hasn’t been resolved.” In addition, I was told that a supervisor would call me back immediately and no one ever called. Plus, the voice on the survey call promised that some­one on your team would call back within 24 hours, That was four days ago! That’s the problem!”

What’s Your Recovery Strategy?

Despite your best efforts, mis­takes do happen. They’re annoying when they do, but people do un­derstand this, and are moderately tolerant of this - if you resolve the issue quickly and definitively.

Try this exercise with your team: get together in a conference room with a flip chart or large whiteboard and make four columns.

In the first column, make a list of everything you can think of that could possibly go wrong in deliver­ing your product or service.

Next to each item in the sec­ond column, describe the impact the problem would have on your customers.

In the third column, identify a solution for how you would address that problem if were it to come up.

Finally, in the fourth column, see if there are any preventive ac­tions you can take now to ensure that the problem doesn’t occur in the first place.

There’s an old adage that you should hope for the best but pre­pare for the worst. The worst time to search for re­covery actions to a serious problem is when you’re right in the middle of the crisis.

Taking a proactive approach will help you consistently deliver the highest possible level of service.