That Telefonica’s O2 have made a Heathrow Terminal 5 hash
of the 3G iPhone launch in the UK is not news. Naturally the media, with
their consumerist outlook, are having a field day.
The failure to anticipate demand with the resulting lack of
stock may have been no failure at all, but possibly intentional – it generates
great ‘must have’ media coverage.
But the systems failures, both hardware related and the
‘softer’ end of customer service, bear all the hallmarks of a mediocrity
However, unlike their friends in the media, those with a bit
of real-life business experience may well be saying ‘but there for the grace of
God go I’. Large corporate roll outs like this frequently do trip over
themselves and it is not always as easy to predict the bottlenecks as a first
class honours degree in hindsight might suggest.
That said, it is rarely a good idea to lie to customers.
Again, this sort of thing tends to have the media up in arms but those of us
with that real-life experience, while not necessarily condoning O2’s actions,
can perhaps understand the temptations to cover-up and try and avoid the further
trouble that full and frank honesty might induce.
Whatever your view, there are three types of lie, all
experienced within a 24-hour period by your correspondent trying to track down
his new O2 iPhone, that should be avoided at all costs:
1 Don’t lie about
things that your customer knows are obvious lies. For example, when he has
called the Business Customer Services number, don’t try to pretend it is the
Retail Customer Services number just so you can get rid of the call. And, don’t
tell your customer he can only communicate to you by email and then give him an
email address you know is not monitored. You will, undoubtedly, be found out so
what have you to gain?
2 Don’t blatantly
and gratuitously violate your complaints procedure that you publish on your
3 Don’t make pompous corporate value statements
that look like the greatest work of fiction as soon as they’re put to the test.
And finally, a couple of tips:
1 All directors
should spend a few days each year on the shop floor. O2 will no doubt spend
millions advertising this year in an effort to persuade us to use them. Much of
this is wasted, as it is with many organisations, when the customer experience
calamitously fails to match the expectations the advertising has created. Had
the CEO of O2 spent just ten minutes manning the customer services phones he’d
know the advertising expenditure would be far more profitably deployed in fixing his
constipated and dysfunctional company.
Directors quickly get out of touch – the
troops on the ground often know what’s wrong and how it can be fixed quickly
and easily. The ranks of mediocre middle managers, on the other hand, need to cover
up their ineptitude so lie to the directors about how things are really going.
The only effective remedy is to spend time with the troops doing what they do
2 If you’re a
telephone company, try to understand how ridiculous you look to the rest of the
world if you won’t accept complaints by phone!
O2 were invited to respond to this post but declined to do so.