Frankenstein’s Customer Service Monster

Annex - Karloff, Boris (House of Frankenstein)_01

For almost two hundred years now, the classic novel by Mary Shelley has stood as the iconic definition of the human struggle to tamper with natural forces through science. In doing so and through careless judgment, a monster is released on the world that cannot be contained.

Has Frankenstein’s monster come to the business world? Has what we call “Customer Service” replaced Mary Shelley’s creature as the modern day Prometheus? There is always so much confusion and opinion on what constitutes customer service so it’s important to make the distinction from what business now calls “Customer Experience”;

Customer Experience is the art, science and strategy of giving people a reason to return to your business and feel good about telling others to use your product or service.

 Customer Service is the mechanics behind managing a weak customer experience.

The former is pre-emptive and assumes a positive outcome. It revolves around creating a culture in an organization that has enthusiastic people; processes that make it easy to do business with them and quality products that are both inviting and reliable. The latter is typically reactive and assumes/prepares for negative outcomes. They are tools, analytics and gimmicks designed to put a Band-Aid on the root causes behind a lack of customer loyalty.

To illustrate the difference between the two, here is a personal example;

 I recently stayed at this hotel while on a business trip (I won’t name the hotel or even the city I stayed in to protect the innocent, well not so innocent.) At check in, they gave the gratuitous speech about how their biggest concern was that I enjoyed my stay….canned customer service tactic #1. Within 5 minutes of getting to my room I received a phone call, it was from the front desk; “We just want to make sure that everything in your room was satisfactory.” Having just walked in the door, hard to say it wasn’t but I got it….it was the “follow-up call” or canned customer service tactic #2. Then I saw something new, something I haven’t seen in all of my travels. I saw the picture below;


A post it note attached to the headboard of my bed advertising that they used clean sheets. That blew me away!!  Obviously canned customer service tactic #3 but they have to advertise that they use clean sheets? Kind of scary. Of course customer service tactic #4 was the email survey  at the end of my stay that takes 20 minutes to fill out and I don’t have time for anyway.

Now here is where the fun begins. The TV didn’t work, it would get stuck on one channel but I assumed I was a goof and didn’t know how to work it. Then clock wouldn’t work. It wasn’t set on local time and after 20 minutes of playing with the switches I gave up. Again, I’m thinking I’m just dense but I haven’t had these issues elsewhere and it would have been cool if the clock was just set to the correct time, duh? But then the iron was broken, a real problem as I have meetings in the morning. The showerhead was one of those slow drip, cheapies and there’s nothing like a drip shower in the morning.

The biggest fun came when they charged the wrong credit card, after I specifically asked them nicely not to. In the morning I asked the young lady at the counter to kindly change the credit card. After 30 minutes on her cell phone, trying to track down her manager (as I stared at the “Manager on Duty” sign) she informed me that she cannot find him and doesn’t know how to refund my card on her own. I finally said to just leave it on the current card and moved on.

None of that was really life changing or earth shattering, but it did affect the experience and consider this; What if instead focusing on all of the customer service tactics they focused on a better audit of each room, a checklist perhaps to make sure that all the amenities are working properly? Perhaps better training for their employees to handle common situations at the counter? Or even a culture of communication so management is still approachable if they are off site?

It’s just a thought, but one fact remains. Great experiences are what cause people to return and promote to others, not Frankenstein’s monster. Call it what you will, as businesses obsess over customer service tactics it continues to grow into a monster that cannot be contained.

 Do you focus on great experiences in your business? Or the monster?