Customer Service, Break Down or Wear Down

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Customer Service, Break Down or Wear Down

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We probably all have a bad customer service story. In fact, when it comes to customer experiences it is what most people talk about, the bad stuff, the horror story. It’s what people tell their family, friends, and their next door neighbor.

Customer Service CSR

I’ve heard a lot of bad customer service stories. During many of my customer service seminars I typically have at least one activity that draws focus to the participant’s positive experiences, specifically to get them thinking about what a good experience feels like rather than creating a focus on what is wrong or broken.

Break Down

Some organizations will self-identify when they have a problem with their customer service policy or procedures. They are constantly striving for feedback, they listen well, and they find effective ways to survey their customer base, they even monitor social media channels.

They’ll often go to great lengths and it pays off because it helps them quickly identify things that are broken. A bad policy, a mishandled transaction, a quality issue, or they might even catch a negative on-line post or unfavorable comparison with their competition.

We might hear some of these.

“My French-fries were cold.”

“The doctor ordered the wrong test.”

“The landscaper killed the grass.”

“They sent me the wrong product.”

Resolving or fixing break downs in the customer experience are sometimes costly, but are easily identified.

All of this is great, but so often this is only identifying the break down in customer service or quality. Is there something else? Absolutely and that something else is often about wear down.

Wear Down

What happens when an organization finds a gap or hole in a policy or procedure? They create an addendum to the rules.

What happens to a rule that is applied over and over again across long periods of time? It often loses some of its purpose or integrity. It might fade or it weakens.

The question might become, “Do we take back a broken product beyond its warranty period?” The answer is often yes, and this likely makes sense, but across time the CSR (customer service representative) may completely forget about the warranty period.

What often is not so easily identified is how the rules change across time. This might not be so much about a break down in policy or procedure, but more representative of a wearing down. It’s when the intent of a policy or procedure becomes more nebulous over time.

“I drove my car 150,000 miles, but it had excellent care and now the motor is fading. I want it fixed for free.”

“My house roof is 35 years old but just sprung a leak. I’m calling the roofer to complain.”

“I’ve had my smartphone for 3 years and religiously charged it in the proper manner, the battery is fading and I want a replacement.”

What would the CSR or the organization do to solve any of these problems? Provide a new car, a new roof, or a brand new smartphone? I’m dramatizing for illustration purposes, but a bend in the rules across time can become costly.

Wear Down Works Both Ways

The opposite can also be true. What happens or how do you identify when a CSR or another organization representative inadvertently tightens the rules? This is also wear down, a wear down of the intent of the guidelines, policies, or procedures.

The best organizations don’t just fix break downs, they are also monitoring for and adjusting to wear downs.

Do you know of anything that is wearing down?


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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