How Headlines Lead to Sad Customer Service Stories

Headlines can be seriously misleading.

Let’s take a quick detour from customer service and look at an example from the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers are getting bad press. Lots of it.

NBA teams have just entered the free agency period. The Lakers are trying to rebound from the worst record in franchise history last season, but elite players don’t want to sign with them.

Here’s a sampling of the headlines:

  • Laker Mystique is Dead (SB Nation)
  • Has Franchise Lost Its Mythical Allure? (Hoops Habit)
  • Lakers Are In Denial of Shrinking Status in the NBA (LA Times)

You get the idea.

The point of all these articles is the Lakers are no longer a team that top free agents want to sign with. The glory of seasons past has now faded.

These headlines also distort the truth. 

The Lakers have never been a top destination for elite free agents. Shaquille O’Neal (1996) and Jamaal Wilkes (1977) are the only marquee free agents they’ve signed since moving to Los Angeles in 1960.

If we aren’t careful, these misleading headlines will point us in the wrong direction. Data is an antidote to hype. Whether it’s building a title contender in the NBA or a team of customer service all-stars, a little analysis can go a long way.


Misleading Customer Service Headlines

Here are a few typical customer service headlines that can be misleading:

  • Our people need training
  • We need more people
  • Yelp is evil

These headlines frame a perspective about the content of the story. It’s convenient, and perhaps lazy, to stop there. 

A closer look at each headline reveals a different story.


Our people need training. 

The Hype: Send poor performers to a customer service training class and they’ll magically become awesome. 

Sad Twist: The problems don’t go away, but you’re still out the cost, time, and lost productivity associated with the class.

The Truth: Training alone rarely solves performance problems. Other solutions are often required. I once did the math and discovered that when it comes to improving service, training is on average just 1 percent of the solution.


We need more people

The Hype: Hire more people and we’ll magically become awesome

Sad Twist: You overspend on hiring and the problem still exists. Later, you’ll need to lay off employees in a desperate bid to cut costs.

The Truth: New people won’t make problems go away if you don’t first fix the underlying issues. A recent blog post provided several alternatives that could be much more effective.


Yelp is evil

The Hype: Yelp is just a place for disgruntled customers and unsavory competitors to ruin your business. There’s no solution here. Run for the hills! 

Sad Twist: Your mistrust of Yelp becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as more and more upset customers write scathing reviews.

The Truth: Yelp is good for business. Yes, plenty of reviews are fake (16 percent, according to Yelp). However, businesses that master Yelp end up driving more revenue. Yelp estimates that businesses add an average of $8,000 in revenue just by activating their free account.


Finding the Truth

It always helps to look at the data and then draw conclusions. 

Let’s go back to the Lakers for a moment. They’ve won a total of 11 NBA championships since moving to LA in 1960. Each championship team had elite players who were considered among the best in the league. 

Let’s look at how each of these elite players were actually acquired:

  • Jerry West (draft, 1972 championship)
  • Wilt Chamberlain (trade, 1972 championship)
  • Gail Goodrich (draft, 1972 championship)
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (trade, 1980, ’82, ’85, ’87, and ’88 championships)
  • Jamaal Wilkes (free agent, 1980, ’82, and ’85 championships)
  • Magic Johnson (draft, 1980, ’82, ’85, ’87, and ’88 championships)
  • James Worth (draft, 1985, ’87, and ’88 championships)
  • Shaquille O’Neal (free agent, 2000, ’01, and ’02 championships)
  • Kobe Bryant (trade, 2000, ’01, ’02, ’09, and ’10 championships)
  • Pau Gasol (trade, 2009 and ’10 championships)

The path to glory for the Lakers suddenly looks different. The data suggests that shrewd drafting and cunning trade deals are a better bet for turning around the Lakers.

Sometimes, it’s as easy as making a list. Other times, a bit more analysis is required. 

My Needs Analysis course on provides three basic steps for analyzing data. It’s presented in the context of designing a training program, but it could be used to solve other problems too.

  1. Set clear goals
  2. Gather data
  3. Analyze data

You can watch a preview of the course here. A subscription is required to view the whole course, but you can get a 10-day trial account.