Is “Service Roulette” Driving Customers Away from your Business?

Posted On January 23, 2015
By Steve Cohn

While attending a recent conference in Las Vegas, I decided to chance some of my hard-earned money and time at the roulette table. I placed my chips on various numbers and watched as the croupier spun the wheel.

Sadly, I did not win, which I kind of expected. So I tried again several times and on the fifth spin of the wheel, I hit my number! (Actually, I played “even/odd”, so it was a 50-50 chance). I walked away satisfied, but wondering if it had been worth my time.

A couple of days later, I played roulette again, but I was far from a table in Las Vegas. This time, I was on the phone, calling my cable company for some help. I spoke to one representative and within two minutes realized she had no idea what she was doing. I spoke with another who inadvertently (or on purpose) dropped the call.

Finally, I found an agent who actually seemed to know what needed to be done and took some action. She was very professional and went the extra mile, getting me an appointment for the next day, which was a Sunday. I was impressed enough to speak with her supervisor and register my pleasure over how the representative treated me.

I had played “Service Roulette.” Pick up the phone, spin the wheel. Will the ball land on an agent who knows what he’s doing or land on one who doesn’t? Will she be polite or rude? Will he take care of you or drop your call? Will she find a way to exceed your expectations or disappoint you? It all depends on where the ball lands and the wheel stops.

Service roulette. You never know who you’re going to get. It’s the luck of the queue. To find out why and how service roulette happens, we have to look at employees and what the organization expects from them.

Serv Roul

There are three types of performance in an organization:

  1. Functional performance. Every job has a part which is “functional.” Many employees, if not most employees, learn to do the functional part of the job and believe that is enough. These employees are components. They’re interchangeable. And they tend to be micro-managed.
  2. Impact performance. These employees perform with impact. They know exactly why they are there, what it means to be excellent, and how to meet and exceed their customer’s expectations. They can tell you the impact their performance makes on the lives of their customers and their co-workers. We love these people.
  3. Inconsistent performance. This is where the problem comes in: when you have impact performance and functional performance in the same company, especially in the same area.  Your customer never knows which performer he or she is going to get. Pick up the phone. Spin the wheel. Who’s going to answer? Service roulette.

Customer experience should never be a game of chance. Your customer should never have to worry about spinning the roulette wheel to see what kind of performance she gets. We can’t afford to have impact performers and functional performers in the same queue. We owe our customers more than that. Start to weed out your functional performers and take the time to find the performers who will strive to make an impact. It’s worth the wait and the effort.

By the way, the day after my call, I received an automated call that told me that my appointment, which was supposed to be for Sunday, was actually going to take place on Monday. Totally frustrated, I picked up the phone … and spun the wheel … again.