Category Archives: The 95 Method and Management

ACS Fails Service Test

The following incident (with ACS) from a reader highlights the good problems with front and back office design and putting agents on the phone that can not help customers in any way.  I love the IVR, which of course only adds to the frustration of the call.  The amount of failure demand driven in from such interactions far outweighs the short-term benefits perceived by “dumbing down” the agent.

“I have a great one for you.

Just called ACS/Mellon (my HSA) because by recurring payments to dentist have not been working.  I’m going to try to recreate my experience for your reading pleasure.

I initiated the call at 8:20pm and went through the regular 3 minutes of options before I could get to an option to speak to someone.  Once I got through, of course all representatives were busy, and I was told my wait time would be greater than 5 minutes.  During my 20 minute wait on hold, I was told 33 times by an automated female voice and 8 times by a male voice that “my call was important” and to “stay on the line and someone would be with me shortly.”  In one instance, the female voice even interrupted the male voice.  I finally got through to a representative who of course asked me for the same information I had already keyed into the phone.  I was finally ready to address my issue.

The issue:  I had set up $160.00 monthly recurring payments to my dentist for my daughter’s braces.  I set this up last year, and everything worked fine for October, November, and December of 2011.  I assumed everything was going according to plan, so when I checked my account sometime in March of 2012, I was surprised to see that no payments had been made to the dentist in 2012 and the recurring payment was gone.  Thinking it was probably a new year thing, I went ahead and paid the dentist the two missing payments with my flex spending debit card, and set up a new recurring payment beginning with the April payment.  I could then see payments queued for 3/30, 5/1, and 6/1, so I thought all was well.  The week of April 9th, I went back in to check the account and saw that all three payments (including the 3/30 payment) were still in a pending status.  Having exhausted what I could find on the website, I made the call.

The representative proceeded to tell me that she saw a pending payment from 3/30 to the dentist, that had not been issued.  Duh!  Wasn’t that why I was calling?  She asked me to hold while she “checked the database.”  She came back to me with the suggestion that I delete the transaction and re-enter it to see if it would go through.  When I said I didn’t think that was the solution, and that I wanted to find out the problem (whether it be on my end or theirs), she said she could open a research request for her back office to look at it.  It would take 3-5 days for a reply, and I could call back and get the results the the inquiry.  When I questioned why I was calling them instead of them calling me when I didn’t even know when they would have an answer, she proceeded to repeat that it would be 3-5 days.  She did say that she would make a note on the request for them to call when they had resolution (I’m not holding my breath.  I don’t think she even asked for my phone number.)  I then put my 95 Method hat on and got her to admit that she couldn’t see anything more on her end than I could see on my online application.  Of course, at the end of the conversation, she asked if there was any else she could help me with (she hadn’t helped me with anything.)  She then asked me if I would be willing to take a survey.  My answer was, “Oh, yes!”  When she tried to transfer me, she must have hit an invalid code, and I went into an infinite loop telling me that the code I entered was incorrect and to re-enter it.  Needless to say, I didn’t get to the survey.  How convenient!

Do I feel like my call was very important to them?  YOU BETCHA!”

Apparently, my reader isn’t the only one with problems attributed to ACS – see Consumer Affairs website.  ACS needs to discover the counter-intuitive truth that good service costs less.  Remember, don’t blame the agent!  The system designed by ACS management is the issue as they designed the system.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Designing Work for the 1% is Costly

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal got my attention.  The article is titled, Why We Lie and describes the fact that 1% cheat no matter what you do.  The rest just need to have deterrents to keep them mostly honest.

The telling example in the article describes this by “locked doors” that will keep the mostly honest people out as the locked door eliminates an opportunity.  However, the 1% will get in a steal stuff no matter what.

Isn’t this the way of the world?

There are many different forms of lying and cheating.  Executives will cheat for rewards, especially when the culture encourages this behavior.  Consultants will even steal clients by misrepresenting facts and changing history to support their intent and position.  Sometimes it comes in the form of hidden fees to customers.

Regardless, you can”t prevent people from cheating and lying that represent the 1%.  However, many organizations attempt to do so.  This is done by separating the work so that someone can’t cheat.  Seems logical, but separating the work loses the accountability that provides the deterrent to the “mostly” honest people.  Instead, once the work is separated no one is accountable.

Designing work that is interesting and challenging provides a positive deterrent to workers and provides a better leadership strategy.  This counter-intuitive truth that better work brings is something that can separate your culture and your service from all others.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.


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The Sales Prevention Team

I was talking with a colleague regarding past experiences with clients and he came up with a beautiful explanation for sales with some companies he had worked with in the past.  The “sales prevention” team was the label given.  Both a humorous and sad label.

Organizations are desperate for revenue in these economic times and push methods reign to “get the revenue.”  Some times organizations use manipulative methods to up-sell or convince the customer of an “unrealized” need.  Most of this stuff is BS and actually can work against you in raising costs.  Returns are a good way to identify some of these costs to hit revenue numbers.  When customers buy things that don’t fit their needs they return it and there is cost associated with returns including distrust from the customer that can’t be measured.

Sales departments that can’t help customers solve problems can actually prevent sales.  When non-sales calls are taken in a sales area they often get passed to customer service.  Most service organizations see this as a good design as they have sales “specialists.”  The customer, however, sees it as another barrier to overcome.  not helping a customer at point of contact creates great dissatisfaction . . . it prevents sales.

Some sales folks are more interested telling you about their knowledge than helping you solve the service problem they have whether it relates to purpose (value demand) or a problem the service organization created (failure demand).  I roll my eyes when I great detail about the features and benefits that don’t matter to me from a sales person that is working hard to convince me.  Most customers want to call to buy, but the failure demand and the salesperson get in the way . . .  more sales prevention.

Making sales is a process of discovery.  How do I enable the customer to get what they need and not more than that?  Or helping them discover new ways to get jobs they need done more effectively and efficiently.  This is sales enabling.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The Road from Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competence

On occasion I go back and read some old favorite books that helped shape my thinking.  Peter Scholte’s book, The Leader’s Handbook, was one such book that gave a me pause.  The history of what became known as the Quality Movement is well-described.

One such concept from the book is for whole management to move from a state of unconscious incompetence to a conscious competence.  Too many executives do not understand how poor their systems are performing.  One of the great breakthroughs in service industry (my perspective) is the idea of failure demand – a failure to do something or do something right for a customer (95)  – this measure alone begins the process of unwinding myths and legends that exist in organizations and opens a new way of thinking.  A move from unconscious incompetence to conscious INcompetence.  More ways are need for management to understand the damaging effects of poor thinking.

Once management understands they have a problem that is steeped in their thinking, with the right guidance and being empirical an organization can begin to achieve conscious competence.  It still requires work to be competent and reinforcement of new thinking to make improvement.  Unpacking old and damaging thinking takes time.  Management must learn that it takes patience, persistence, humility and a period of ineptness – something most managers are uncomfortable in doing as confidence (even wrongly achieved) is a trait embraced.

But managers are incompetent and part of competence is learning an organization as a system . . . outside-in from a customers point of view.  This requires knowledge of the work and competence in doing the work and/or the ability to defer to those that do have competence in the work.  And in service, the work is the interaction of customer and front-line employee to satisfy customer demands.

Why is being in the work so important for management?

Because this is the place the business fortunes are won and loss.  This is where you can see the effects of the unintended consequences of policies, rules, mandates, standadrdization and other management driven measures and programs.  This is the best way to move from unconscious incompetence to conscious INcompetence.  Otherwise, management tends to rationalize the situation without seeing and hearing for themselves.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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