People problems are not always problem people.
When you look at the phenomenal growth and success of companies like Zappos, the online shoe retailer, it is easy to see the critical importance of service and customer satisfaction. If you haven’t heard the Zappos story, it is an online retailer that went from zero to $1 billion in 10 years, in the shoe business where customers can’t even try on the shoes. And we all know how difficult it is to find a pair of shoes that feel good, let alone look good! Tony Hsu, the CEO says openly that the success of Zappos is solely the result of a culture of fanatical customer service.
In a recent blog I wrote about my negative customer experience at a Vision Express store. Well, the saga continues and this time it points out that poor service is not just down to one poorly trained or miscast employee. Poor customer service is often a cultural phenomenon that infects an entire store, region or organization. A culture of poor service is more a result of poor business processes than just poor individual behaviours. For the background to this principle, see People Problems are Not Always Problem People.
The same time I was getting my eyes examined at this particular Vision Express store, my daughter was getting checked for new glasses and new contact lenses. Not the most pleasant customer experience for her and my wife but tolerable, until the next visit.
Five days later my daughter had another appointment to get her new glasses fitted and pick up her new contact lenses. My wife called up to move the appointment time up a little and secures a new time. They arrive at the store at the new appointment time, but the ophthalmologist was on a lunch break. Obviously someone didn’t advise him of the new appointment time.
Anyway my wife was on a tight schedule and demanded that they call him back to keep the new appointment time. Not a great start! He returns and quickly checks her eyes again to make certain the new contacts are comfortable and fitting properly. Next stop, upstairs to get the new glasses fitted and a second example of poor service. Instead of taking the proper steps and time to check the fit of the frames, the fitter just asked my daughter to nod her head a couple of times to see if the glasses moved down on her nose. No movement, job done! My wife was going to complain but the time pressure and the lousy experience got in the way and she picked up the bag containing four boxes of the newly ordered contact lenses and left the store.
Once back at home we realize that not only do the glasses not fit properly, but the bag contains the wrong brand of contacts from those originally ordered, necessitating another trip back to the Vision Express store.
Calling up to make another appointment my wife demanded to speak with the store manager to register a complaint. After a few minutes on the phone she discovers that the store manager is brand new to that store but has worked for the company for 11 years and was recently sent in to improve the running of this branch. The new manager is not just dealing with isolated individuals but an entire culture of poor service. How can this happen in a company like Vision Express who pride themselves on continuous employee training and excellent customer service?
The lesson is very clear, somewhere in the Vision Express value chain of business process there has been a breakdown or a process step that has been abandoned for whatever good reason, like cost containment or to maximize some other “important” metric. It’s easy to blame an individual for poor service, but much more productive to get to the root cause. The new store manager will do her best but will Vision Express do its and explore the breakdowns in the entire customer value chain process?
What’s your guess?
Tight Lines . . .
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