Eight service sins can drive utility customers away

PHOENIX, Ariz., August 10, 2004 — What is a service sin? Simply put, it’s behavior that drives customers away.”These sins are committed by utility employees and are a result of their attitudes and habits,” says David Saxby, president of Phoenix-based Measure-X, a company that specializes in helping utilities improve their customer service and sales. “Oftentimes, people don’t even realize they’re committing these sins. They’re so ingrained, they’re the basis of the way employees treat customers. No utility can afford that.”

Saxby explains the following eight most-common sins of customer service.

Sin No. 1. Apathy: The “I don’t give a rip about you or my job attitude” sin. “Many employees get this way when they’re bored with their job or if they’ve lost sight that the reason for their job is to serve the needs of the customer,” Saxby says. “Sometimes, they just need a reminder of such.”

Sin No. 2. Brush-off: Get rid of customers by transferring their calls. “This causes the customer to tell their story over and over until they become so frustrated they want to scream,” Saxby notes. “The only thing that can save this situation is if the customer finds another person in the company who will take the time to help them.”

Sin No. 3. Coldness: Much like apathy, only worse. “Impatience, curtness, hostility toward customers or co-workers – that’s coldness,” Saxby explains. “The body language of this person shouts out, ‘You’re a nuisance; go away!'”

Sin No. 4. Condescension: A patronizing attitude. “Common examples are using a customer’s first name without their permission; using industry jargon or acronyms rather than communicating in clear, understandable language; and communicating at a different level than that of the customer,” Saxby says.

Sin No. 5. Robotism: “Thank you, have a nice day, NEXT!” treatment in which customers feel like they’re nothing more than a number. “While it can be frustrating answering similar questions and providing similar information for hours on end, customers should feel as if they are the employee’s first caller of the day,” Saxby points out. “Employees need to stay away from a stock set of motions and make certain they connect with each customer.”

Sin No. 6. Rule Book: Use company guidelines as excuses for not providing service even when an employee knows the rules are flexible. “When the rule book is used, customers hear negative phrases such as, ‘That’s our company policy,'” Saxby says.

Sin No. 7. Runaround: Send the customer on a wild goose chase because no one is willing to take ownership of his or her problem.

Sin No. 8. Tune Out: Failure to focus 100 percent on the person who is speaking. “This sin creates a number of problems, such as judging before you’ve heard the person out and not asking questions to verify that you understand what was said,” Saxby notes. “Other problems include not giving appropriate responses and interrupting with your answer before the customer has completed his or her question.”

So what can utilities do to eliminate these sins?

Make everyone part of the customer service improvement team by involving them in finding ways to eliminate your company’s service sins, Saxby suggests. Managers should ask each member of their team to make a list of the sins they observe during a one-week period, omitting names of the people who committed the sins, Saxby says.

“Bring everyone’s list to a staff meeting and, as a team, rank the service sins, with No. 1 being the most frequently observed,” Saxby says. “Then brainstorm ways service can be improved to eliminate the sins. The sins will begin to disappear by merely raising everyone’s level of awareness.”

Measure-X is a measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skills. For more information on Measure-X, call 888-644-5499 or visit its Web site at www.measure-x.com.

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