Service Failure Interview with John Ippolito

John Ippolito invited me to be a guest at the Carte Blanche San Diego Book Club a few months ago. We recorded a brief interview where I shared a few thoughts about my book, Service Failure.

  • The customer service disconnect - companies think they're doing well when they're not
  • The process of writing the book
  • How Service Failure is different from other customer service books

You can view the interview here:

Social Media Thought Leader Panel at CCExpo 2014

One of my favorite features of ICMI's Contact Center Conference & Expo are the Thought Leader Panels.

These are short panel discussions on specific topics featuring thought leaders from the contact center industry. I had the privilege of moderating the Social Media panel at the 2014 conference.

Here's the video (click here if you don't see it):

New Training Needs Analysis Course Launched on

A needs analysis is the first step when developing a new training program.

It can help you identify what training participants really need and connect that training to business objectives. In many cases, a good needs analysis allows you to create training that's faster, cheaper, and more effective.

My new course on will take you step-by-step through the needs analysis process. It’s intended for instructional designers, but anyone who creates training programs can benefit. 

Topics include:

  • Setting project objectives
  • Identifying the target audience for training
  • Selecting data sources
  • Facilitating focus groups and interviews
  • Designing effective surveys
  • Identifying participant needs
  • Defining learning outcomes
  • Presenting results to project sponsors

The course is part of’s online library of video-based training programs. Using video allowed me to create some interesting visual examples.

In the sample video below, you’ll see me meeting with a Vice President who requested an interviewing skills training program. Initial meetings like this can help trainers discover a lot of really useful information. (Click here if you don’t see the video.)

You’ll need a subscription to view the entire course. The good news is your subscription gives you unlimited access to all of their courses. 

Even better news? You can drop my name and get a free 7-day trial. 

Do Your Employees Know Their REAL Job?

Some service failures are frustratingly obvious.

Take this one for example. I spoke at the CRM Evolution 2014 conference last week. The conference was fantastic (re-cap here).

There was just a small issue with how the hotel set up my breakout room:

It’s obvious that seats shouldn’t be placed directly behind this enormous pillar. So, why did it happen? Ironically, I touched on the root cause in my session on hidden causes of poor customer service.

The root cause is employees who didn’t know their real job.

Try to see this room through the eyes of the people who were responsible. An obvious blunder can easily be overlooked when people are focused on tactical responsibilities:

  • The salesperson who sold the room was focused on selling the event.
  • Banquet staff who set up the room were focused on the event plan.
  • Audio visual staff were focused on the technology.

Nobody stopped to question the big picture because they weren't looking at the big picture.

The problem is caused by something called framing that allows your customers to see what you don’t. The tough part is framing happens to us instinctively. And, it's further supported by job descriptions that read like a laundry list of tasks.

So, what is their real job? Their real job should be helping their guests enjoy a successful conference.

View the job this way and there are multiple opportunities to prevent this service failure from happening.

  • The salesperson could have offered a different room or a different set-up.
  • The banquet staff could have set up the room without the obstructed seating.
  • An audio visual person could have noticed the obstruction and alerted the banquet staff.


Help Employees Find Their Real Job

On a strategic level, companies need a strong customer service vision. This is a shared definition of outstanding customer service that’s understood by all employees. 

On a tactical level, employees should see their jobs from their customers’ perspective. Here’s an exercise that can help: 

  1. Write down some of your basic job duties.
  2. Re-imagine each one from your customers’ perspective. 

Here are some examples of customer-focused perspectives excerpted from my book, Service Failure

Sales reps at a flower and plant wholesaler decided their role was helping florists (their primary customer) grow their businesses by helping them select flowers and plants that will sell well in their shops.

Information technology employees working on a college campus determined that their role was helping faculty and staff minimize downtime from malfunctioning computers.

Call center agents at a medical device manufacturer realized their role was helping to save lives by making sure the right products got to the right doctor in time to help the patients who need them.

Service failures are often obvious, but discovering their root causes can often require deeper insight. I've compiled a set of ten exercises you can use to help your team understand some of these obstacles. You can access them by downloading the free Service Failure Workbook