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How Can We Excuse Rudeness in Customer Service?

Our recently commissioned YouGov survey revealed that almost half (49%) of those polled [over 1,400] cited unfriendly and impolite staff as the most common reason for poor customer service.


To further explore this theme, Service Management’s Saul Sherry asked the following question on LinkedIn: What is going wrong in service departments that customers are left so unsatisfied by the lack of manners and empathy from service departments?

It sparked an interesting debate. In question was the UK’s service culture, where examples of excellent service are generally the exception rather than the rule. Top of the complaints list seemed to be call centre culture in corporate environments, where not enough attention is placed on the individual and their value to the organisation.

Below we’ve summarised ten of the service tips that came out in the discussion:

  1. Fix yourself before you fix the customer
  2. Put emphasis on training customer-facing staff
  3. Invest in people skills and don’t expect staff to just know or understand
  4. Carry out continuous staff training development and evaluation
  5. Ensure the service culture is driven from the very top
  6. Explain to staff the value of the customer transaction and the impact of the service receives so they can realise their and the customer’s value
  7. Enable experienced call centre agents to resolve issues and make changes to schedules
  8. Respond to customers in the right way: “it’s all about how you say things, not what you say”
  9. Use technology to measure process (i.e. balanced scorecards and net promoter scores). Once you have this data, target those individuals most in need of improvement
  10. Take time to understand the causes of poor service in order to eliminate them

The discussion questioned whether the level of disgruntlement is a natural bi-product of the tough economic environment. In general however, it was the consensus that instances of rudeness or poor service cannot be tolerated in whatever environment we operate.

Thanks to Saul for continuing the debate – we believe the survey results should act as a reminder for CEOs, service directors, management and engineers alike, in that there is still significant room for improvement.


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