Customer Service “Visionaries” – The Blind Leading The Greedy


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After being involved in helping others improve customer service, and being a staunch advocate of better service I find myself in a quite awkward position. I see the customer service visionaries as fools! I read their tweets and blog posts telling companies what they “should” do and they “must” do with respect to customer service and social media, without having any sense of how businesses work and of course, without knowing anything about the businesses they are providing “advice” to.

Of course, those that read these tweets and blog posts applaud, because, as customers (or as fellow visionaries), they want as much as they can get. Ultimately we have the foolish visionaries leading the greedy customers.

BS Dalton, for example, in what amounts to a almost childish blog post, suggests that we can have a revolution, and challenges corporations to promote their heads of customer service to CEO. Applause is rained down on him like ripe canteloupes thrown at slow, awful standup comedians. There are hundreds of other examples, I could cite. Post any superficial nonsense to the #custserv chat, or similar gatherings, and you’ll receive kudos. Ok. Fine, the fools lead the greedy. It’s not terribly new. What’s the harm?

As a person who works in the trenches with staff to help them deal with the most difficult customers in ways that will turn them into solid (and well behaved) customers, I’m a strong advocate of better service. The fanatical visionaries who cannot separate their roles as customers versus their roles as “helpers of change”, do more harm than good, because they damage the credibility of every other consultant or person trying to help organizations improve. Fanatics always do that, whether they are religious fanatics or fanatics of management practices (ie. TQM, Deming). By touting simple, naive solutions to problems that are not even on the radar of corporate decision makers, and by not trying to understand those very decision-makers, the fanatical visionaries (really fanatics, and not visionaries at all), discredit themselves.

If it was so easy for companies to change how they do customer service, and if doing so is as profitable as these visionaries claim, the only explanation for why companies aren’t doing it comes down to corporate stupidity, and trust me, major multinationals, while sometimes doing stupid things, are not run by stupid people. If you do not talk to them, and understand them, you have no hope of helping them change. Period.

Still, it’s easier for customer service charlatans and naifs to make their reputations by standing on the sidelines and throwing rocks at companies and executives they have never met. Tomorrow, for example, the #custchat group on Twitter will be addressing the following question:

Tues topic #custserv: “Many Businesses Use Socialmedia And Engage, But Don’t Translate It Into Offline Customer Service. Why?”

So, if you are an intelligent person posing that question (and it’s not a bad question), who do you ask it OF? Why, you ask the “many businesses”, but that’s not what they are going to do. This group of “visionaries” is going to speak on behalf of the many businesses without actually talking to them, and guaranteed they are going to conclude that it’s fear, or ignorance, or some other things connected with the businesses and executives that show them in a negative light.

The VISIONARIES know what HP should do, or what IBM should do. It’s easy, peasy at least from the sidelines. And this arrogance on the part of people who claim they do keynote speaking and customer service consulting isn’t going to help anyone. It just makes it easier for smart people with strong track records to reject all customer service advocates.

How’s It Done?

Here’s how you do it. You LISTEN. You go talk to the people you talk about and instead of talking about them, you talk with them. You learn what drives them crazy, and you learn how they think about customer service. You don’t assume. You don’t guess. You don’t treat people who are smarter than you as inferior. You don’t treat CEO’s, COO’s, or CFO’ as inferior.

Also, instead of presenting a completely unreasonable picture of what companies “should” do for customers, start looking for a reasonable middle ground, so that companies, managers, employees and customers can all win sustainably. If that sounds familiar, it’s our WIN4 philosophy (see the logo up top).

Stop pretending that customer service is free, and start realizing customer service is a business tool, NOT an entitlement.

That’s a hell of a start.

I challenge all of the participants in #custserv chat, or those of you who think yourself as knowledgeable about customer service, to go out and talk to ceo’s and talk to decision-makers in the companies you talk so often about, and LISTEN, LEARN, and start understanding how customer service fits in to running a sustainable and profitable business.

Or, you can remain as the blind, the greedy, and you can continue to convince decision-makers that we are all charlatans with nothing but soundbyte qutoes to share.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Bacal
Robert began his career as an educator and trainer at the age of twenty (which is over 30 years ago!), as a teaching assistant at Concordia University. Since then he as trained teachers for the college and high school level, taught at several universities and trained thousands of employees and managers in customer service, conflict management and performance appraisal and performance management skills.


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