Seven Reasons Why Service People Fail

Put away that blame culture. Unless your hiring practices are seriously flawed, your people are not usually to blame when something goes wrong. Here are seven reasons people at the front line fail to perform:

  1. Task Clarity
    Perhaps the performer is not clear on the performance that is required. Would you bet your next year’s salary that your view of your employee’s accountabilities and expectations matches their view?
  2. Task Priority
    Sometimes failure is due to the performer’s perception that the performance you expect is not really all that important.
  3. Competence
    Failure can sometimes be due to a simple lack of skill. People can’t do well if they don’t know how.
  4. Obstacles
    …real or perceived: A computer system that doesn’t allow a service rep to easily step between different customer accounts is a real problem. Being told by a fellow employee: ‘Don’t spend more than 70 seconds on a call. Long phone calls are the easiest way to get fired around here,’ whether that rule is real or hearsay, makes it real in the employee’s eyes.
  5. Reward for Failure
    Sometimes there’s more reward for poor performance than for good performance if your reward system is skewed (most are). Also, bizarrely, people who get attention (however negative) when they do poorly and are ignored when they do well may stop doing well just to get a reaction.
  6. Performance Feedback
    Do you provide clear, timely information that helps your people evaluate and fine-tune their performance? Or is it pointlessly general, only oral and subject to weather-vane swings in emphasis that can confuse and disorient?
  7. Role/Person Mismatch
    When all else fails, you may need to re-examine whether the performer would be more successful in a different role or a different team. But take care in jumping directly to the ‘he/she can’t cut it’ assessment. If the employee has been away from the firing line for a while, or is new to the pace of a live workload, his or her performance can quickly improve, with a little encouragement and help from you. Waiting and watching is critical to making the right call

Amit Nayak
ITESGrads India

Feb 2004

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