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When Customer Service is Bad on Purpose

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Here’s something to consider: Maybe your company’s customer service is bad on purpose. By design or just intentionally.

Of course, neither your CEO nor your CMO is ever going to say this. We live in a world where every company talks the right talk. “Service obsessed.” “Customer centric.” "Great Customer Experience." Which is why we need to be consulting the company’s actions, not its words, for the real story on its customer experience. Forbes recently brought up a few interesting points.

To be fair to you, hypothetical reader, your company probably is not an intentional customer antagonist. More likely, any dissatisfaction your customers have with the customer experience is in spite of your best intentions. You likely need to just keep at it, keep improving what you’re doing, keep heading in the direction you’re already aiming. Which is all for the good.

But take a moment and consider the other possibility.

Is there any chance your company offers a level of customer service that’s substandard on purpose? Is it possible the reason customer service at your company is poor is because it’s intended to be poor? Certain actions, or inactions, indicate a company that, by my definition, provides bad customer service on purpose.

  • If you say you want to treat customers in a warm, caring manner but you don’t hire employees who are naturally warm and caring…your customer service is bad on purpose.
  • If you hire warm, caring employees but too few of them to properly serve your customers…your customer service is bad on purpose.
  • If you hire enough caring employees, but don’t invest in the training they need to serve customers properly…your customer service is bad on purpose.
  • If you hire enough warm, caring, properly trained employees, but make them suffer with obsolete technology and facilities…your customer service is bad on purpose.
  • If you hire enough warm, caring people and properly train and equip them, but then work them to the point of burnout or fail to involve them in designing their work and workday… your customer service is bad on purpose.

In your line of work, you may assist companies in improving their customer service experience. But to get anywhere on this front, in my experience, the decision-makers in a company do well to start with a reality check, a goals check, a values check. Do they really want to offer a great customer experience? Or do they just think it would be a nice thing to have—but probably not worth the effort, the commitment, the cultural and resource investment? Because it does require work. Very rewarding work, but work nonetheless.

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