When customer service is more about internal marketing than training

Because, unlike most other countries, when a bank holiday coincides with a weekend, we Brits nominate the nearest weekday a public holiday, today (Monday 2nd May) was Mayday bank holiday in the UK.  As a consequence, I caught “Don’t Get Done Get Dom” on daytime TV where, cheeky chappie Dominic Little champions the consumer cause.  The object of his ire this week were the retailers Currys and PC World and Dom had a mailbag full of customer service complaints that he set out to resolve with the retailers’ parent Dixons Stores Group.

Over the last few years the consumer group Which have consistently highlighted DSG’s customer service deficiencies, its surveys revealing a customer satisfaction rating of something in the region of 30%, so the state of affairs can’t be news to DSGI management.  It’s bemusing therefore that, if they have done anything at all it’s had little or no impact on the end product, which frankly appears as bad as ever.

How can it be that a big organisation like DSGI can firstly deliver such poor customer service and secondly fail to address the fact when its pointed out to them in such irrefutable fashion?  Well, it could be that it’s a strategic choice.  I’ve heard of organisations before that had made the conscious decision to set their customer service rating target low because they had calculated that the cost of raising it above that point would not be recouped.  Putting aside the many and obvious flaws in that argument, I can’t imagine that a 30% rating would be acceptable to anybody, so I have to assume that this state of affairs is rather more an accident than a plan.

The feedback Dom received from DSG management was confusing.  Their comments suggested that they view inconsistencies in customer handling skills as an inevitable consequence of their rapid pace of recruitment and accepted that limitations in training capacity would result in new employees arriving on the shop floor with limited or no training.

I don’t buy any of this.  Firstly training may be an issue, but the fundamental problem here is clearly internal marketing.  The reported problems had far more to do with the willingness of customer-facing staff to disappoint or even upset customers than it did with processes, which it seems were largely not at fault anyway because all the customer issues were resolved once Dom had escalated them.

It seems obvious to me that the focus of DSGI employees is miss-aligned.  They seem to act on the assumption that customer satisfaction was secondary to adherence to processes (which they misunderstood anyway).  Yes, training would help them get to grips with the processes, but internal marketing is the tool to set customer satisfaction as the priority.  Once that’s established, when an employee can see that they are in danger of disappointing a customer they’ll realise that the process, as they understood it, is leading them down the wrong path and put the brakes on.

I don’t accept that employees find themselves on the shop floor without first receiving training either.  Training like this doesn’t have to be process-based.  In fact, the priority should be a culture-based induction that can be undertaken by the local manager, on-line or in a classroom, depending on time and cost pressures and there are many ways in which this process can be policed.

Over the years I have devised and run numerous training and internal marketing programmes, for retailers, who have witnessed improvements despite high volume recruitment.  In fact internal marketing, linked to a clear brand model reduces employee turnover, so volume demands are usually reduced too.  The evidence of Dominic Little leads me to suspect that DSGI are making a fundamental error in thinking that training holds the solution to their problems.  My belief is that they need to take a step further back.  Their customer service issues and a number of their other problems are, I am sure, all down to the lack of a clearly defined brand model and the internal marketing programme that makes it live and the sooner they recognise that and address it the sooner they will stop finding themselves the focus of programmes like Don’t Get Done Get Dom.

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