The Perils of Service Inconsistency

The Perils of Service Inconsistency

As President and CEO I am proud of the customer-centric team we have developed at OTEC and wanted to share the following blog by Paula, OTEC’s Marketing and Communications Coordinator.

Earlier today I was eating lunch with my colleagues, discussing our weekends. As we were chatting, my one colleague brought up this horrendous story about going to the gas station and receiving THE WORST customer service complete with vulgar language and irrational harassment. Feeding off this topic the rest of us launched into our own customer service stories including the good, the bad and the ugly.

Why can’t service be consistent?!

I’ve gone to certain places for years and had wonderful experiences and then, all of a sudden, terrible ones. Or there are times when you never know what you are going to get; a smile, a scowl or worse.

Don’t all employees go through the same training when they begin?

Isn’t the goal in the service industry to retain and increase customers by creating an outstanding experience?

I did some research and according to the “experts”, inconsistent service is worse than consistently bad service. And we all know consistently bad service is not great, so why on earth do either of these issues persist? Some of the justifications companies provide for lack of consistent customer service include:

  •          Different trainers – due to geographical distances and availability, organizations employ a variety of people to train their employees resulting in inconsistent training.
  •          Different trainee learning styles – some trainees are visual, some kinetic or audio oriented and the training provided does not accommodate this.
  •          Changing environment – both internal (management) and external (environment) have a huge impact.

These are all legitimate and understandable things, however, as a member of the training industry, I know of one solution that effectively responds to each issue – good quality Service Excellence Web Based Learning! Trainees can learn from the same person, or system, incorporating a variety of learning styles in a standard format. I honestly don’t understand why companies who face these issues don’t take logical action. Especially when these types of tools are so accessible with leading providers frequently promoted by industry associations.

I think these things are important to note because everyone endures poor or inconsistent customer service on a regular basis – and it’s frustrating! I encourage any readers to check out what your firm is doing, and if nothing, or nothing effective, suggest doing something about it. Taking action benefits everyone. Retain customers and increase their loyalty with consistent service excellence!

… at least you’ll gain my loyalty that way

-Paula Lanza


And by the way, OTEC has just launched an engaging, interactive eLearning course called Service Excellence Dynamics. It does the job that those companies can’t do so I encourage you to check it out!

-Victoria Behune


A Manager’s Missed Moment of Truth


In my last blog I explained how a front line professional was able to recover my business with excellent service. Now, I know that front line professionals do not have the power to always make things right, but when senior management turns a blind eye to a situation and then provides terrible customer service in front of their team, then we know we have a problem captain!

During my stay at GTA hotel, it was the General Manager, who in fact, demonstrated an unforgivable lack of customer service skills.

This is the sequence of events during a family event where various family members booked overnight accommodation. Several family members experienced loud music outside their rooms well into the late hours of the night. Despite trying several times to communicate with staff, they had challenges getting the music turned down, and off. On top of that I also experienced a terrible breakfast in the lobby the next morning. When we all registered our complaints the next morning to the front desk clerk the hotel General Manager walked by us a few times. Without stopping.  The front desk staff indicated the Manager was busy, but when he walked by for the third time, we approached him about the concerns.

He indicated he was too busy to speak to us, since he was in a meeting with an important customer. It turns out it was a building contractor. Not only did he not take a moment to resolve the situation, but he walked away!

My family member later contacted him in writing. Again, he made a list of excuses about the brand, his busyness and the fact that if we don’t like what the new brand represents, we can go elsewhere.

This situation should never have escalated as it did. This senior manager did not lead by example and did not recognize the opportunity to turn a poor customer service situation into a positive one by valuing the customer in front of him and following up properly. Regardless of the brand standards, customer feedback is imperative if a “new” brand is to survive. If businesses don’t take feedback to heart, they will soon learn what the market will bear. I too sent a personal message to the General Manager about my negative experience and I also completed a follow-up questionnaire. I never even got a response to my email by the General Manager, nor a response to my comments in the follow up survey.  I am still dumbfounded to this day and as a senior executive in the hospitality industry, the fact he didn’t follow up to me, makes me wonder how others fare.

This service situation was made worse by a manager who obviously lacked the basics of customer service, service recovery, or coaching skills to ensure they lead a customer centric business. Not only do they not mentor and coach their teams, but they don’t walk the talk and dropped the ball when it counted. It is unfortunate that when they do their business plans and budgets they just might be missing their customers.

In order to foster a culture of service excellence, managers need to understand how to lead by example. OTEC’s Building a Culture of Service Excellence Management Program can provide you with the skills and tools to create a positive service vision and culture for business success. In order to maximize customer loyalty one must develop an organizational culture based on consistent service standards and strong leadership.

-Victoria Behune

An Experience with Front Line Excellence

febblog2For years I have been a longstanding and loyal customer of a quality skin care line, sold at select Canadian department stores. So when it came to buying gifts, or personal pampering, naturally I gravitated towards a product I knew and trusted.

My unique experience with the product began when I purchased three certificates for facials and booked my first of the three appointments. Prior to the date of my first scheduled appointment, my appointment was cancelled by the service provider and rescheduled for a later date. Then a couple days before the rescheduled appointment, I was left a voice mail cancelling my rescheduled appointment and was informed someone would get back to me to re-reschedule.  I waited. No call came.

After weeks of trying, I finally connected with a Department Manager who assured me she would follow-up about another appointment. When that didn’t happen, I connected again and was assured she would contact me for an appointment and that the counter was closing in a couple of months. Of course I was anxious to get my first of three appointments done while the service was available. That was about 10 months ago! I have still had no communication, apology for the inconvenience, no attempt to make this right for me, and no attempt to book my three appointments for facials.

This not only happened to me but to a colleague who also had the misfortune to purchase similar gift certificates.  As customer service oriented professionals I was dismayed by what happened to us.

Out of frustration, and because I now knew the counter was closing with no one attempting to provide me with an alternative solution, I decided to drop in at  another location and see what they could do for me. The service provider there listened and promised to check into things on my behalf. Unfortunately, I don’t think she got any response or direction from management either, nor did anyone assist her in resolving my situation. Now this is where a customer-centric employee can save it for a company… fortunately, she believed me and provided me with the services I purchased, even though the records remained at another store. This pleasant and client-focused service clerk provided me with a complimentary facial to ensure I liked her, and then booked my three facials. She also gave me a gift for my inconvenience and for sticking with the brand and that department store. She did everything in her power to make me feel valued.  As someone with a VIP card, I was angered by the lack of communication by management and also the skin care company management. The fact they would just leave their customers hanging when they decided to close a counter at one of the stores, when clients have pre-paid for services, demonstrates a lack of policies, processes and leadership. If it wasn’t for this service professional who went above and beyond to correct the mistakes of her bosses, I would not be back, and I would not be continuing with that product.

Although the organization and management set the stage for an individual’s service experience, it is the front-line service provider who ultimately provides the excellent customer service. It is they who interact with the customer and they who have the ability to create memorable service experiences resulting in customer loyalty. To train and empower your front-line staff with the skills and tools to consistently provide similar unforgettable service experiences check-out OTEC’s Service Excellence Workshop.

– Victoria Behune