We’ve all had the experience of playing “Service Roulette.” You call a company with a problem. A customer service representative answers the phone. After about three minutes, you realize that this person has no idea what they’re doing. So you ask to speak with somebody else. The CSR tells you she can’t do that, so you say, “OK, bye” and you hang up. Eventually you get to somebody else, or somebody else, or somebody else.
Each time you call or are transferred, you spin the wheel. Sometimes they can help you, sometimes they can’t. Most of the time, whether you are helped or not depends on which person you speak to on the phone, or the chat, or in person.
Having worked with more than 150 companies in my customer experience consulting and training career, I have found that because they get nice notes and generally good customer satisfaction scores, companies think they’re doing a good job. The reality is that in most organizations, there are people who are doing a great to phenomenal job with customers, some who are doing a competent job, and those who are doing the job in a “fair” or “unsatisfactory” way. When this happens, the customer takes a chance every time he calls, texts, or comes in. He’s playing Service Roulette.
I recently played a game of Service Roulette with Xfinity/Comcast, trying to begin my “Triple Play” service. I was already a Comcast TV customer, but now was moving my internet and my phones from AT&T. (I know, which devil do I choose?). I was to get super hi-speed internet, HDTV on three TVs, one DVR and two other boxes to play recorded shows anywhere in the house. They were also going to “port” my two phone lines and rent me a router. Here’s how the game played out. We’ll mark each as “good spin” or “bad spin” on the roulette wheel.
- After placing the order, they told me they couldn’t install everything for nine days, on which day I would be out of town. (Bad spin).
- Got a manager who told me she would do everything she could to get me an earlier appointment and would let me know when one opened up. She never did, so I had to change the appointment to a day when I’d be home, four days after the original appointment (bad spin)
- Technician shows up. He hooks up the TVs with the DVR and two other boxes and while installing the phones, he tells me he has an order for only one phone line, which means nobody moved the other line from AT&T (bad spin). Then after installing the internet modem he tells me that my router is a DSL router and doesn’t work with cable internet. When I tell him I was supposed to get a router from them, he says he doesn’t have one for me. He also only hooks up the phone line in one room. (Such a bad spin the wheel is coming off).
- I go on Twitter and write, “#comcast screws up again. Don’t know y thought would different this time. Forgot to put router on order; now want to charge for coming back” #ComcastCares tweets me and gets the ball rolling to fix my situation. (good spin)
- Next day I get a call from the “Executive Service Center” and speak to a woman who becomes my advocate throughout the process. She stays with me every step of the way and makes sure I have my appointments set. (Great spin!)
- That night I go to watch a recording on one of the DVD players and it doesn’t work. (bad spin)
- When my appointment day comes, the technician walks in carrying my internet router. I confirm that he will install the internet and the phone line (we’re still waiting on the other phone line). The technician says nobody told him he had to install the phones and he’s not trained to do so. After talking to my advocate, he leaves. (bad spin)
- Second technician that day comes, makes sure the “any room DVR” system is working, hooks up the internet, and makes sure the phone line is working all over the house. Now all we have to do is to wait for them to “port” the second phone line. (good spin, for now)
- Next day I go down to my office and find the phones in my office are not working. (bad spin from the previous good spin)
- My advocate moves the second phone line from AT&T to me and a technician shows up to install it. When I tell him the phones in my office don’t work, he informs me that unlike the phone company, a cable modem doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle two lines in four rooms. But he points out that with 35 years of experience, starting as a communications technician in Vietnam, he will make it happen. And it does. (great spin)
- Next day, someone in technical support calmly and patiently walks us through setting up our email and network. (good spin)
Later that week, I get a call from Xfinity asking me to rate our technician (the last one who came to the house). What am I supposed to tell them?
The call was asking about the last interaction I had, but that wasn’t the whole story. The whole story was all 11 interactions I had. My advocate would receive a 10 on a scale of 10. The last technician also receives a 10 on a scale of 10. Leaving it at that would give Comcast/Xfinity a “false positive.” Everybody else would receive scores from 0-8. And my decision about whether to recommend the company is based on everybody who touched me, not one person.
The best companies provide consistent service across the board. This takes holding people to a high standard and providing continual education and training that drives them towards this standard. It also requires people to know their stuff and be able to make decisions on behalf of customers. You can’t provide consistent service by papering over a lack of knowledge, empowerment, and experience by forcing people to read from scripts. You can’t provide consistent service by throwing people into customer situations and hoping they learn on the job or from peers.
A number of years ago, I bought a “Pro” service plan from Dell. One of the features they promised was that I would always get their best technicians. I thought that was great, but then I asked myself, “If I’m getting the best, who is everybody else getting?”
They’re getting Service Roulette. And spinning the wheel.
Steve Cohn’s new book, “It’s Not Rocket Service: Managing, Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations” is available on Amazon.com. For more from Steve, “like” his “It’s Not Rocket Service” Facebook page.