Stop Putting Process Over People

I had an interaction with a large, very well known company this week. During this interaction, it was very clear that the person I was working with had no idea what they were doing, even before I asked for something that was a little challenging for her to deliver. She put me on hold five or six times, and the total interaction took almost an hour. But she did her very best, and she was very polite.

The large, well known company then sent me a survey. The first question asked: “I would hire the representative I spoke with if I owned a customer service company.” I was asked to choose a rating from 0 (strongly disagree) to 10 (strongly agree).

I am always unhappy giving up an hour of my life to handle an issue that should be easily resolved in a few minutes. But this customer service representative wasn’t to blame. The process was to blame.

Training: It was clear the customer service person hadn’t been through any serious training. She didn’t have any idea how to respond to my request. She had to put me on hold because she had to go to her supervisor for help.

I have no idea how much training she had, but my hallucination is that she was put on the phones because they needed help, not because she was well trained and ready. The hiring, training, and onboarding process are broken, not the customer service person.

Hold Time: I was on hold a long time. During the time, the customer service person waited for her supervisor to give her direction. The time she waited for direction was the time I waited for an answer. I am certain the supervisor had good intentions, and I imagine he was dealing with a long line of customer service people waiting for answers.

The process of providing the customer service person with help is broken. It’s broken for the customer service person, and it’s broken for the supervisor. That means it’s broken for the customer.

Broken Survey: The survey is broken, too. The first question asks me whether I would hire the customer service person if I owned a customer service company. It sounds clever. I am sure the person who designed the question believes that the single greatest factor as to my satisfaction during my call is the customer service person. They may even believe that that person is empowered to help me. But the person wasn’t empowered.

A better question would be “I would utilize the same process used if I owned a customer service company.”

It’s easy to blame people. It’s easier than providing them with the tools, the training, the technology, the leadership, and the process they need to succeed. Assume people have good intentions and they are constrained by process. Don’t assume the process is good and you are constrained by people.


When people struggle, is it always the person’s fault?

How does process constrain people instead of empowering them?

How do you build a process that gives people the flexibility to act on behalf of the customer?

What do you do to prepare people in a way that allows you to trust that they’ll make the right decision?

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