Why Companies Fail At Customer Service (And Other Important Things)

Why Companies Fail At Customer Service (And Other Important Things)

I’m not suggesting this is the only reason companies fail, but it’s a big one because it causes things like this to happen.

“This” is the much reported (and repeated) story of how a local TV news station covered themselves with egg by mis-reporting some critical information about the recent Asiana Airlines plane crash. (A simple Google search of “sum ting wong” will give you all the details you want.)

The reason this little news station is now the butt of jokes across the globe is simple: They missed important details that they should have caught.

Just looking at the purported names in this story makes you wonder why someone didn’t catch it. They don’t even look like legitimate names. Also, if you read them out loud, they reveal themselves for the prank they are. Maybe this is only obvious now because we’re on the other side of the joke. Maybe in the frenetic flurry of activity that is a typical news business, these two factors were not obvious.

But they should have been obvious. And they should have been caught. Because that’s something news businesses do. They verify what they report. And, btw, verification is sometimes more than just a phone call to a government agency. Included in the idea of “verification” are the concepts of common sense and professional judgement. In this case both seemed to be ignored. Maybe it’s easier to just take someone else’s word for it. This provides a scapegoat if something goes wrong later. “It’s not our fault, the government verified it” says the news station.

Except, the resulting mess gets stuck mostly to the people who reported the bad information, NOT the people who supposedly verified it.

But wait, there’s more. In this case, two of the pilot’s names had already been reported on this news station’s own website. So this station’s attempt to pass the buck of responsibility to the NTSB is vacuous. Sadly, it only makes them seem less competent.

So there really was no reasonable excuse for what happened. A professional organization, in the business of collecting and reporting news made a major mistake. They reported news that was not only wrong but highly embarrassing. And it happened because they didn’t invest the time and effort into getting things right.

When I see mistakes happen in companies, it’s almost always caused by the same problem. We don’t take time to get things right first. Maybe people are too busy, they have too much work, not enough training or the wrong set of resources to do the job well.  Certainly these can be factors.  But many people face these constraints in their organizations, yet they do fantastic work every day. And they build positive and valuable reputations for their employers.

A perfect example is Jacob, whom we met last year at a local Famous Dave’s. Regardless of the working conditions he faced he simply provided an amazing experience to his customers. He did it as naturally as breathing. He chose to deliver that level of customer service.

When your company is filled with people who like Jacob choose to do their jobs well every time, you don’t have to worry as much about catastrophes like the one described above.  Not that mistakes won’t happen. They will. But big mistakes are typically caused by a series of small errors. So having a culture of quality and pride in doing the job right should translate to the little errors getting caught so the big ones don’t happen.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz