Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal Online published an article entitled Companies Strive Harder to Please Customers. I think this is a great example of companies trying to incorporate the service-profit chain philosophy.
One of the companies discussed in the article is Sprint Nextel Corporation. I am a long time Sprint user, and I can confirm that I have noticed the difference in customer service. Their service is not perfect, but they are very responsive and they do recover well when they make a mistake, which is very important to me. I’ve ordered three new phones from them recently, each with a rebate, and they have screwed up the rebate each and every time. I’m still dealing with one of the rebates, but they fixed the other two promptly. Their online chat service is very impressive.
As the article points out, the improved service did not happen by policy. Some clueless executive did not issue a memo that said “Starting Monday, we WILL have better service around here – or else.” That’s folly.
The improved service is a result of a change in the system used to provide service, and the accompanying rewards for behaviors the new system is designed to encourage. I think this proves Pfeffer and Sutton’s (2006) point that the law of crappy systems trumps the law of crappy people.
Empowerment is overrated; focus instead on enabling your people to impress the socks off your customers. Partner with them to improve crappy systems and give them the tools and training they need to provide kick ass excellence.