Economic uncertainty creates behavioral variation in business. When consumer activity shifts it creates uncertainty in markets. When markets are uncertain it creates business uncertainty. When business is uncertain about the market management reacts with a "whack the mole" mentality.
Given today's market conditions many business managers are playing the business equivalent of the "Whack-a-mole" arcade game: they undertake focused initiatives to improve one dimension of business performance without realizing that these initiatives will hurt other dimensions. Other initiatives with a different focus then follow to undo the damage done by the first one, but they usually undo the improvements as well. As soon as the manager's mallet has whacked the "cost cutting" mole, the "poor service" mole rears its head in defiance. The social web magnifies the "voices of poor customer service" so now businesses are considering "social initiatives" to whack this mole".
Which Mole Are You Really After?
Customer service problems reflect relational problems built into the "system of business". When we speak about the "system of business" we are not talking specifically to business systems rather to the organizational design, culture, management, and last but not least the quality of thinking reflected by leadership.
What is the systemic problem in business that reflects as poor customer service? If you brought all the managers to the Leaders office, told them they need to focus on improving customer service, and watch their reactions: "We need better training of our customer service personnel," says one, "we need to automate customer service with technology says the second manager, and the third manager says." "Change the firm we're using for outsourced customer service," and another says, "I thought we addressed this a year ago. Why hasn't it improved?" The head of PR says "This problem is killing us in the blogosphere everyday". And last but not least the head of customer service says "With the budget cuts we just went through I had to cut back on the number of customer service representatives. Give me more money and I'll hire more people to handle the volume of calls. One last thing, what is a blogosphere?" The one mole that raised its ugly head (customer service) created different reactions from top management who "whacked at the issue with old responses or hammers aimed at the same mole." Get it?
What is The Socialution?
Customer service problems are reflective of a poorly designed "system and related processes that create customer interaction". The "concurrent improvement for all business problems" means the end of management whack-a-mole. The relationship between a problem and how it is resolved is a problem in thinking.
Seth Godin writes "It's way more profitable to encourage each of your existing customers to spend $3 than it is to get a stranger to spend $300. It's also more effective to get the 80% of your customer service people that are average to be a little better than it is to get the amazing ones to be better still."
The Socialution to poor customer service starts with a change in thinking and ends with recognition that your thinking may need to change yet again. If problems and people are dynamic why should our thinking be static?
What say you?