Changing Customer Service That Sucks

Customer service will matter this year. That’s because customer service sucks right now. And it starts with your employees. Or rather, how you start your employees.


Your employees are stewards of the customer’s experience. Right now, they are delivering the customer service that sucks. So it would be easy to blame them. A business owner might say: “Have you seen the pool of potential employees out there right now? That’s just the way things are.” That might be the way things are, but it’s not the way things have to be.

Your employees don’t really suck, they’re just apathetic. And employers have conditioned them to be that way by starting them off on the wrong foot. When a business does have a training program, and you would be surprised how rare that is, that training is task-focused. “Here’s a list of things you have to do. Now hang out with Laura here and she will show you how to work the register.” Employees are conditioned to believe that their job is mechanical. What a shame, because most people want a job that is more than just a set of tasks.

To shift this paradigm, let’s go back to the start. When training a new employee, instead of teaching them how to do a set of mechanical tasks, teach them that what they do is really important: they serve customers!

Starting at the Start

What if you changed your training and shifted the focus off tasks, at least initially. Get your new employees to buy in to the importance of your business. In the 1997 best-selling book, Gung Ho! Turn On the People in Any Organization, Ken Blanchard says if your want your employees to be gung ho,

“they must first of all understand why they are needed. Why their work makes the world a better place… People have to understand that what they do contributes to the well-being of humankind, makes a difference in their own patch of the forest”

Start your employee training my letting them know that the work they do is important. Their job has meaning. Even if that job is waiting tables in a small restaurant, or running the register at a dry cleaner. Customers would not spend their hard-earned income at a business unless it was important to them. Customers eat at restaurants for sustenance and escapism. Customers go to dry cleaners to have crisply-pressed shirts so they can look good and have a positive self-image. Find the importance in the work your employees do.

Employees will begin to appreciate their job. As a result they will take their job more seriously, paying more attention to customer service. Blanchard points out why this is in Gung Ho!

“What we’re really talking about is one of the most powerful human emotions. It ranks right up there with love and hate. It’s called self-esteem. One of the fastest and surest ways to feel good about yourself is to understand how your work fits into the big picture.”

The big Idea: Train your employees to understand that what they do is not just a set of tasks. What they do is important, their work is worthwhile.

Do you have a training program? Do your employees understand the importance of their work?

Additional Reading on Customer Service:
What is Great Customer Service?
The Key to Customer Retention


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