It Takes Just One Bad Apple….


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When my little boy was born a couple of months ago, my wife was provided fantastic attention / care at the hospital by a multitude of mid-wives (staff)… except for one. I won’t go into too much detail but the rudeness of this particular staff member was disgraceful. And it was this particular mid-wife that inspired this post.

You see, this one mid-wife almost destroyed all the goodwill built up by all her fellow team. When I think about the number of staff members that interacted with my wife, i.e. doctors, mid-wives, porters, cleaners, catering etc the number easily exceeds 20 people. And yet it only took 1 person to leave a sour taste of the experience.
What strikes me is that this is not unusually and demonstrates:
a) The critical importance of a business’ Front Line Staff.
b) The damage 1 can do to many.
How many times have you experience poor customer service? It is neither here nor there whether it is face-to-face or over-the-phone. It also does not matter whether it is a billion dollar bank or a small business. The reality is that poor customer service can have a material impact on the bottom line. Some facts include (Source Link A & Link B):
  1. It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience – “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner
  2. A 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 25 – 95% – Bain & Company
  3. A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service related than price or product related – Bain & Company
  4. 68% of customers leave because they were upset with the treatment they received whilst speaking to customer services – US Chamber of Commerce
  5. 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back – 1st Financial Training services
  6. A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people – White House Office of Consumer Affairs
  7. Companies that make customer service a high priority see twelve times the return on sales than those companies with a low emphasis on service – 
  8.  International Customer Service Association

Unfortunately I do not have any facts on the impact of social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs etc particularly in the area of mass communication of poor service or experiences.

Back to the hospital! This particular hospital has four values, three of which are, Compassion, Respect and Excellence. Clearly the hospital’s strategy and ability to execute were not aligned for the mid-wife in question. Like all organisations, this hospital could have a 95% (1 in 20 as stated above) success rate in employees adopting the values element of the corporate strategy however the impact of that one person literally wiped out the entire 95% achievement for us as customers.
A search on Google or Amazon will give you countless books and articles on Customer Service practices etc. Additionally there are a plethora of consultancies and training companies focused on the area of Customer Service. However for all you Execs, Managers out there always keep one simple fact in mind….It Takes Just One Bad Apple!


As a side note the forth of the core values at the hospital was Accountability. We were very impressed by the Customer Service Manager who did an exit interview with us re my wife’s stay. As returning to the hospital is not in our near term plans it would be very interesting to see how the feedback we provided is used to minimize the potential negative impact of the one bad apple by living the core value of Accountability.


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