Right first time

Fans of ‘80’s pop will remember a Gerry Rafferty hit with this catchy chorus: ‘You shouldn’t worry I said that ain’t no crime, ‘cause if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time.’

But Gerry doesn’t work in the 2020’s, delivering customer experience. If he did, he would realise how far away major businesses are from getting it right, first time,  for their customers. Never mind the investment in KYC, in CRM systems, and in ever-upgrading online platforms. It’s all about weaknesses in the people and culture workstream.

Early computer firms like IBM, who pioneered tech innovation in the 1960s, came up with an expression to rationalise why their amazing technology often failed to deliver expected results. ‘Garbage in, garbage out’ (GIGO) highlighted the fallibility of human operators who input inadequate data.

We should recognize that 2020s customer experience is just as frustrated by GIGO. But, interestingly, not as much in our new high tech call centres as in our face to face engagement with customers. In these call centres, everything is monitored and staff are held to account. In the best ones, a team spirit emerges, encouraging staff to take pride in ‘getting it right first time.’

 In more traditional environments (where arguably the human dimension has more value) this is less the case. The bank branch, where the most helpful person is the askari on the door, doing his best to manage seating arrangements for long-suffering customers. The mobile phone outlet where 75% of the staff are youths employed to sell handsets and manage queues while customer experience staff take an average of 30 minutes to deal with each customer. The hardware warehouse where customers hope in vain to find knowledgeable staff to help them.

If your organisational culture does not support your intention to deliver great service, then you will always fail to achieve customer satisfaction (that fleeting perception created by the last interaction).

No amount of KPI’s or HR policies will change this, because they are prescriptive, not persuasive. Persuading employees is just like marketing to any target audience. You find out what they think and feel about the matter in question, then decide how you are going to change that. You deploy both rational and emotional stimuli to make them think and feel the right way. It won’t work with everyone, but that’s why we need employee turnover.

Recently I bowed to the inevitable and switched my mobile phone provider. Has Safaricom got everything right for me, first time? No, but their call centre has pleasant, competent people who are committed to ‘getting it right next time.’