Customer Service: A Game
of Skill or a Game of Chance?
Slot machines are a
game of chance.
Would any reasonable
person try to make a case to the contrary?
Apparently so. A few
years ago, when gambling companies ran a successful attempt to loosen up
Missouri’s casino laws, some lawmakers actually tried to make the
argument that slots are a game of skill.
Huh? Note that I
qualified my question above with the word “reasonable.”
Some things are, by
definition, left up to chance. Car accidents. Bumping into old friends.
And, despite arguments by elected officials to the contrary, slot
But not excellent
recently ran a feature on "Best and Worst Customer Service" in which
they used personal stories from real-life consumers to illustrate the
customer service found at such brands as McDonald's, Land's End, Best
Buy and more.
Here are 4 examples
taken from the article. See if you can detect anything related to the
reason for the good or bad service from each:
"I recently drove
into Sears auto and stood at the check-in counter. The lady behind the
counter was dealing with another customer ... Ten to fifteen minutes
later she was still dealing with the customer. NOT ONCE did she even
look at me. Needless to say I just got in my car and drove out."
"I was looking for a
certain apron and there were none on the sales floor. A salesperson
asked me to leave my phone number, and said she would personally go
through the boxes and call me. Later my phone rang, and it was the
salesperson telling me she had found the aprons and would be happy to
ring it up and send it to will-call for me. Wow, what a great employee."
"My monitor was dead
on arrival. I called Dell customer support and got a guy with a heavy
foreign accent who directed me to the manual on CD, provided with the
computer. I asked him if he understood the irony of putting the monitor
troubleshooting guide on a CD since if the monitor didn't work you'd
have no way of reading the guide. After 40 minutes of being on hold and
talking to a supervisor, they said they'd have to send a new one -- the
very suggestion I'd made at the beginning of the call."
Worst: The Dollar
"I set my stuff on
the counter to pay. The cashier had to go check a price. She returned
with a manager, and I was told that I could not buy five of the things.
I wanted to know why. The manager told me that she couldn’t sell them
until corporate faxed them the prices for the items.”
Well, did you reach
the same conclusion I did … that the first two examples are more of a
reflection on individual employees than on the business?
The two remaining
stories show how a company can hamstring itself with its policies.
Customer service is a
game of skill, not chance. Some of the skills needed to provide an
outstanding and consistent customer experience include:
Recruiting and hiring people who already
understand the importance of customer relationships, and who truly
believe in good service
Ongoing training and oversight (like
secret shoppers and customer surveys) to ensure a continuing high
level of service
Systems, policies and procedures that
support the service effort and reinforce the importance of customer
If you run your
business without some attention to each of these areas, customer
satisfaction will be at the mercy of your employees. What’s that old
saying about a chain only being as strong as its weakest link?
You’re lucky if
you’ve managed to accidentally hire an employee who “gets it” but that’s
a poor way to build a business. Instead, hire the right kind of folks on
purpose. Then, give them the tools and support needed to wow your
There is much more
skill than chance involved in running a successful business, and that’s
particularly true in the customer service realm.
If you’re the owner,
your business is likely your most valuable asset and your biggest
investment. Take charge of your future, and proactively see to it that
your customers are delighted.
Otherwise, you may as
well be pulling the lever on a slot machine.
Bill Collier is the author of “How to
Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life” and is
the St. Louis area coach for The Great Game of Business. He helps
businesses teach their employees to think and act like owners. He can be
reached at 314-221-8558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.