Why Blaming Doesn’t Work To Improve Customer Service – Never Ending Customer Service Interviews

Profound Difference Between Blaming, and Holding People Accountable For Mistakes

Why Blaming Doesn’t Work To Improve Customer Service

Q: I’ve seen your articles on eliminating blaming in the workplace, and I wonder whether that’s important if the goal is to improve customer service?

Robert: Sadly, blaming is part of our Western culture, and it stems from a natural desire to understand and, if possible, control the world around us. The desire, almost an instinct, is a good thing. The expression in forms of blaming is a bad thing.

Q: Why is that?

Whether you are a CUSTOMER, a manager, or employee, blaming ends up making things worse. If you want to be part of the solution, get rid of blame and blaming.

Robert: Two reasons. First the blaming process oversimplifies and almost never is an accurate reflection of the true causes of things — in this case we’d be talking about a customer service failure. (See system thinking here) The second reason is that blaming is an emotionally loaded process. It’s different than an analysis of a process done for improvement. Because of that, blame evokes defensiveness and aggression, no matter if its within the customer service field, or any other.

Q: So let’s say a customer has a really bad experience dealing with a rude or indifferent customer service representative. Are you saying it’s wrong to blame that person?

Robert: I think maybe that’s not the right question we should be asking. Certainly if the customer remains civil, he or she can express anything, at least up to the point where the law, or the company decides to limit what is under their control. The question might better be: Is it constructive to blame the employee?

I think it’s reasonable to register a complaint about the interaction, citing the employee’s behavior, the circumstances and so on, but if, in that conversation, the customer provides interpretations that go beyond the customer’s knowledge, then the whole thing becomes stupid and wasteful.

Q: Sorry, I don’t get that.

Robert: Let’s say the customer goes to the manager and demands the employee be fired “because he’s stupid, uninformed and doesn’t care” How is that constructive? That’s the kind of blaming statement that doesn’t help the company get better, because it is emotional blaming. How does the customer know why that employee wasn’t helpful? How does the customer know what the solution to this “problem” might be?

The customer knows a good deal from his or her perspective and very little about the causes of problems that occur in any company. Blaming plus ignorance is actually a great way to have a customer complaint marginalized and ignored.

Q: What about blaming or allocating responsibility within a company…let’s say a manager identifying problems and dealing with them with staff?

Robert: Ah. Implied in the first part of your sentence is that blaming = allocating responsibility, and that is simply not true. Blaming contains emotion and is reacted to with emotion. Allocating responsibility is done in a non-emotional, more rational and logical way in the service of making things better.

One has to do with the past, and one has to do with the present and the future.

Q: So, the bottom line?

Robert: Simple. If you are a customer who has “been done wrong”, and wish to register your concern, do so calmly, logically and factually, and stay away from the emotive blame process. Put forth the facts, and let the company figure out the solution.

If you are in a company, let’s say a manager, increase the taking on of personal responsibility and accountability, while eliminating blame.

Author: Robert Bacal

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