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Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

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The Department Game


I was almost stuck for ideas of what to write about this week, but luckily two suppliers came to my aid and inspired me:

1. Our bank of 17 years, who I discovered last month were charging new customers a flat fee about 70% less than what we were paying, this week refused to accept a cheque from one of our customers because it didn’t include the word Limited. Apparently, we needed a special indemnity, but the local branch that refused the cheque didn’t have the form for this; instead I was told to ring my business manager (a nameless person in a call centre somewhere). (There was no offer to call me; in fact a requested call never materialised.) In the end, after much persistence and time on hold, I finally got through to someone who could, and did, help. But why was it so hard?

2. Meanwhile, we’ve been having issues with our card payment processor, who we’ve been with for 14 years. They couldn’t find our account from our six-digit account number. Instead, we faced repeated, frustrated demands for an eight-digit number. It wasn’t on the weekly reports they sent us, or anywhere else. Eventually, they conceded it didn’t exist. It didn’t exist, it transpired, because our account was so very, very old – so old in fact that they couldn’t find our account on their normal systems. I’m guessing it’s unusual for customers to stay with them so long. Anyway, to gain an eight-digit account number and the help we needed, including again, the lower rates that new customers are given, we had to go through a new lengthy application process (lengthy because they lost a bit of the first one) and wait for that to be approved. Hang on, wait for it to be approved? We’ve been with them 14 years! 

I’m guessing we’ve all experienced service issues like these, where internal process and bureaucracy get in the way of customer service. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Not just for the customer – but also for the staff who must deal with the frustrated customer and try to limit the damage caused by their bad experience.

Before we laugh and assume ‘it wouldn’t happen here’ it’s worth reminding ourselves that problems like these can happen in any organisation. They occur when:

  • We focus on internal processes, rather than the outcome for the customer.
  • There is a silo mentality, where individuals, teams and departments work in isolation and the reward mechanism encourages that.
  • There is a lack of big picture teamwork, where people are focused on their personal or team goals, and lose sight of the overall goal that everyone in the organisation shares.

When it comes to dissatisfied customers, prevention is always better than cure. But prevention must be an ongoing process; it’s too easy to become blinkered to the customer’s perception looking in, if we’re too focused on gazing at our own navels. 

The good news is, as you’d expect, we’ve got loads of great training activities in Trainers’ Library that will help you prevent the sort of experiences I had last week. Here are some of my favourites:

Customer Experiences 1 and Customer Experiences 2: Great little icebreakers that use participants’ own experiences to identify the impact of good and bad customer service. 

Diamond or Glass? This on puts participants in the customer’s shoes and helps them see the difference between indifferent and excellent service.

The Case for Internal Customer Care and The Internal Service Chain: How does internal customer care affect the customer?

CRM - A Plan for Dune Races: This looks at using data and planning a Customer Relationship Strategy.

TheAnd last, but perhaps my absolute favourite, and most relevant to this week’s Insight, The Department Game: Participants will see for themselves what happens when departments focus on their goals, and not the big picture.

And here's a useful, free article. It's quite old, but apparently still relevant today. 

Thanks for reading. As always, all feedback is really appreciated, and I'd love to hear your anecdotes and stories too. :-)

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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