Let’s say you’re Brian Roberts, Comcast’s CEO.
Your company has suffered a series of high profile customer service failures under your watch. There’s cancellation call from hell, the customer who received a bill addressed to A**hole Brown, and the unforgettable sleeping technician.
Your company has rung up a string of dubious honors under your watch. Just last month, Comcast was ranked dead last in the Temkin Customer Service ratings, received a miserable 56 rating on the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and was named the unhappiest company on Twitter.
How would you fix this?
Roberts has decided to throw bodies at the problem.
Comcast is about to go on a hiring spree. They’re opening three new contact centers. Beefing up staff in their stores. All told, they’ll be hiring 5,500 new customer service employees over the next three years.
Lazy managers blame service failures on staffing shortages.
This is a convenient excuse. It saves the trouble of defining the problem. Finding the root cause. Taking a hard look in the mirror.
Adding staff doesn’t fix the underlying problem.
Processes will still be broken. Unfriendly policies will still be in place. A toxic culture will still exist. Above it all, leadership will remain the same.
Hiring employees might even make things worse.
Labor costs go up. Leaders will be spread thin hiring and training, causing them to spend even less time addressing service problems. Toxic cultures will become amplified as more employees quickly become disillusioned.
It’s a better idea to fix the problem first. Here are just a few things companies could do:
- Develop a customer-focused vision.
- Act on customer feedback.
- Re-focus employee roles on service instead of cajoling customers into sales.
- Change policies that cause the most complaints.
- Fix broken processes that create waste and customer angst.
One company experienced an internal customer service issue with their payroll department. Checks were frequently late and there were too many errors. The leader adamantly believed they were simply understaffed.
A short process improvement exercise revealed a host of quick fixes. They weren’t recording and tracking errors so they could learn from them. They didn’t prioritize their work. They operated inefficiently.
A few quick fixes cut payroll processing time by 25 percent. Errors went down to almost zero. No additional employees needed.
Here’s a more famous example.
Dan Hesse took over as Sprint’s CEO in December, 2007. He immediately set out to improve customer service. The result? Fewer complaints, which led to fewer contacts. By mid 2009, Sprint had reduced the number of times a customer called each year by 50 percent.
It’s great to hire employees when the company is adding new customers, expanding to new markets, or new skills are needed.
But, hiring people won’t magically make your problems go away. It might make them worse.