Improving Wretched Customer Service

Beyond Giving CSRs Authority—Giving Them the Ammunition to Provide Great Service

July 3, 2013

Even companies that have embraced a customer-centric culture still make bad mistakes that result in horrible customer service. Martha Brooke of Interaction Metrics offers four common mistakes, and we look at how to empower CSRs to avoid these mistakes and create lasting relationships with customers.


Martha BrookeMartha Brooke of Interaction Metrics blogs about common mistakes that make customer service so awful. We add our own views on why:

  • Any answer won’t do in customer service
  • You can’t treat all customers the same
  • You must measure what matters to customers, not just “satisfaction”
  • You need to provide best practices examples to ensure customer service reps know what to do


As I’ve said many times before, customer service representatives need to be empowered to make decisions that impact the customer’s experience. They should be able to offer remedies such as free shipping, discounts, free returns, free products, substitutions, expansions of service contracts, retroactive service contracts, and other perks that can save a failing customer relationship without getting management involved. But there is more to empowering CSRs.

I recently came across a blog entry by Martha Brooke, Program Director and Founder, Interaction Metrics, that inspired me to go deeper into customer service empowerment. In her blog post entitled, Corporate Culture Doesn’t Explain Why Customer Service is “Wretched.” We Do, Brooke states:

“If culture were enough, customer service wouldn’t so often be, as David Segal [in his article praising Quicken’s customer service in The Haggler, Jun. 9, 2013, New York Times], puts it, “so wretched.” The fact is, many companies have “isms,” maxims or principles about serving the customer. Quicken’s response was not great just because of their culture. It was great because they seem to have solid procedures in place.

Customer service is wretched because most companies don’t have a solid plan in place to bring their abstract ideas into practice… Like in Ground Hog Day, many companies make these same mistakes over and over again—and they aren’t about culture.”

Four Common Customer Service Policy Mistakes

Brooke goes on to identify four common mistakes that even the most “enlightened” customer-centric organizations make in preparing their customer-facing employees for helping customers.

“The main reasons customer service fails are that companies tend to:

  • Think Any Answer Will Do. To speak is not necessarily to answer and while it seems ridiculous to have to point this out, all too many customer service programs act like this is the case.
  • Treat All Customers the Same. The flawed assumption here is that all customers are alike and want the same things. But come on now, as modern customers we expect more.
  • Invest in Simplistic but False Data. The most persistent of faulty assumptions about customer service is that measuring is an end in itself. But in fact, the purpose of measuring is to accurately depict (with high fidelity) the nature of what is really going on.
  • Assume Associates Don’t Need Examples. While improvisation is important, it’s wrong to think that providing clear examples will impede great customer service. In fact, it’s crucial!”


Mistake 1: Any Answer Will Do

Brooke comments, “Many companies assume their customer service team is only there to pick up the phone or respond to email, but they don’t pay enough attention to the quality of those responses. That means customers get confusing nonsense, devoid of authentic, useful content. Here’s an example. The other day, before ordering HBO, I [Martha Brooke] asked Comcast/Xfinity if HBO-Go will work on my Roku; the associate blithely said ‘oh sure.’ Since I naïvely believed the guy, I wound up spending several hours trying to get it to work. But it didn’t. Later, a different rep told me ‘oh no, we don’t support Roku or Samsung TV.’”

Interaction Metrics One Right Answer

OUR TAKE. The overarching problem here is one of keeping all information relevant to customers up to date and synchronized. No matter how good your intentions, if your customer-facing employees—and other stakeholders, such as resellers, brokers, outsourced support centers, and other partners—don’t all have the latest and greatest information at the same time, this sort of mistake can happen.

The best way to ensure that your knowledgebase is accurate and current is to empower…


(Download the PDF to read the entire article.)


Sign in to download the full article


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.