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This is part of a two-month series on the importance of company culture. Find more posts about culture here.

Recently I read the kind of story that makes a customer care professional’s blood run cold. From Adrian Swinscoe’s blog (emphasis added by UserCentered):

“It [turns out] that last December there was a problem with Karen Millen’s online card processing system and, although I received an email saying payment had been taken, they had [actually] failed to take the correct amount from my credit card.

Four and a half months later they are now sending me curt emails saying I had ‘kept’ the clothes and not paid for them. I felt like they were blaming me for their error and accusing me, in effect, of stealing from them. They refused to acknowledge that it was their mistake and that it was an unacceptable delay. No one called me personally to apologise.

I have been a loyal Karen Millen customer for years. I will never buy anything from them again. Ever.”

Most likely, Karen Millen customer support agents are better at support than this. Hell, they’re a high-end brand…they probably have fantastic support agents. But the finance department clearly never got the great training or cultural focus that support did.

Tragic, isn’t it? All that money, time, and training spent making sure their customer service was great…and one uncaring finance employee ruins it all and loses a loyal and evangelistic customer.

So are all your departments treating customers the same? A recent Ask Your Target Market survey sponsored by UserCentered said a whopping 59% of employees think so. [Tweet this] You’re probably in that group. But do you really know? Have you actually explored what happens to a customer, for example, if they’re late to pay? I know I certainly hadn’t thought about this until recently. I found out our accounting firm at the time had been chasing down these late payments! They’re nice people but not our people, working under our values. How could I count on them to be empathetic? (We now do this all in-house.)

Late payments is a bit of an extreme (though still relevant) example. But what about your sales team? They’re trained to sell…are they trained to care? Are they only being nice when it closes a deal, or are they even nice to people who end up choosing a competitor? These employees talk to just as many people as your support team, and often in more public settings. If they’re not living the same values, you’re liable to end up with a situation like the one above.

Train ALL your employees in company culture and values (including edge cases like the finance department). You never know who might talk to a customer or potential customer. If you don’t have everyone on the same page, then all the work you do in the Support and Community departments could be wasted.

Photo courtesy of eliduke.

Evan Hamilton

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