In Sunday’s the Haggler (David Segal. “So You Thought You Canceled the Contract.” New York Times, July 15, 2013), David Segal tells the story of a woman who was tricked by Security Networks’ salesperson into signing a 5-year renewal contract.
But of course, while the salesperson was shady, the true culprit was the company; specifically, their tacit (and maybe even explicit) policies.
In our customer service evaluations, we’ve seen some pretty terrible policies, but tricking customers into signing contracts sets a new low bar. As we’ve said before, this is an era of savvy customers with immediate access to their own social media soapboxes. Companies must design policies for 2013, when word of bad policies can spread like wildfire.
There is an important lesson here. All too often, companies are quick to blame their associates when a customer interaction goes bad, but associates are only as good as the policies you have in place. Customer service is made up of:
- Frontline associates
- Company policies, which affect associate behavior through incentives
- Training, which brings the two together
To customers: Come down hard on companies, not associates. Associates are often just pawns in the game.
To companies, do 3 things:
- Make sure your customer service evaluations capture 2 scores; one for the associates and one for the policies.
- Modernize your policies to reflect customers’ rising expectations and the realities of social media risks.
- And, once your customer service policies are great, evaluate how well your associates execute. Perhaps you’ve created some unintended incentives, or your training hasn’t kept associates up on the most recent policy changes.
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