Good intentions. Questionable execution.

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald reported about a letter distributed to Optus staff members by the Chief Executive Officer.

The message was succinct and pointed. In essence, it declared that those staff members who made customers unhappy would be sacked, if and when it was referred to the boss.

There appeared to be six degrees of separation with the mythical statement made by a Roman centurion:

            The whippings will continue until morale improves


The need for such communication was questionable, – if the “right” people had been recruited, inducted into a universal, supportive team ambience – and then trained, developed and inculcated into a positive service excellence corporate culture.

It is a challenge. Some 24% of the adult Australian workforce has the appropriate psychological profile and attributes to be great service providers. Identifying, isolating, recruiting, inducting, celebrating and rewarding them is imperative.

Such individuals are self-monitors and consistent enforcers of the service standards of peers, and among their own internal customers.

“We don’t do things that way” is a very powerful statement of values, intent and self-worth. It comes naturally to a “driven” service provider.


Telecommunication campaigns rank second highest among client (corporate) and customer (consumer) complaints received by regulatory authorities, after banks.

Everyone, it seems, has a story – or an experience – to share about a bank and/or a telco.

Significantly, in both sets of instances, policies, processes, procedures and technology are primary causes of annoyance, frustration, exasperation and yes, “unhappiness”.

In short, the cause and issue are often determined and experienced before personal interactions with a service provider. Indeed, they too may well be a victim of the operating business model which has been formulated, implemented and measured by the Chief Executive Officer, and the senior management team.

In facilitating interactive workshops for in-house sessions of “Service that Satisfies SELLS”, care is taken to explain the context and content when dealing with the typical “customer from hell”.

The issue at hand is often not the issue at hand is a key and fundamental principle.

Condescending and personal outbursts are often the consequences of unrelated, precedent experiences. In-store perceived or real deficiencies can be a trigger that compounds an earlier instance of road rage, a domestic argument or difficulty in finding a parking bay.

Sometimes, minor shortcomings and infractions are the trigger that “breaks the camel’s back”.


The current Australian finance, insurance and service sector Royal Commission has revealed, highlighted, and forensically analysed appalling instances of the neglect, abuse and contempt of customers.

Deficient and inappropriate corporate cultures and staff member reward systems have been uncovered and roundly criticised.

Employment contracts have been terminated, and career paths shattered. Moreover, consumer rights have been profiled, and accordingly, expectations and demands have been heightened, sharpened and are being pursued by a more sensitised customer and client base. There has been a recorded 35% increase in complaints submitted to the telecommunications industry regulatory authority.

Clearly, for all and sundry, there is no place to hide. Service excellence is a non-negotiable performance indicator.

Fine-print provisions are no protection. Simplicity, focus, transparency and accountability are dominant driving forces in a challenging and challenged marketplace.

Concerns about the surging increments in the costs of power and public utility services including water, sewerage and rubbish removal… are being addressed by politicians, governments and regulatory authorities. Comparative cost charts are being drafted, distributed and applied to the advantage of the consuming public and business sectors. However, consumers’ satisfaction languishes.

Some 25 years ago Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong-based international airline, learnt about and profited from the advantages of simplifying the value-package and retail cost offerings.

Little wonder, the success is in delivery.

The promise:

            “32 European destinations

            1 price”


Easy to comprehend, to assess value and to be satisfied. No-one was going to get a better deal. 


A major concern and annoyance to customers is the lack of follow-up and follow-through once a sale or service issue has been successfully concluded.

A personal expression of “thank you” is a strikingly effective relationship enhancer.

Such sentiments and emotions are noticeably absent in the many transaction experiences that typify the prevailing digital marketplace.


For most entities there are eight to ten matrices that define a total positive customer experience (read: great customer service).

These arise before the initial face-to-face (voice-to-voice) interaction, and then evolve following the conclusion of the transaction or issue resolution.

Appropriately and consequentially applied, these factors ensure customer satisfaction and negate the need to distribute letters threatening the sack for infractions which, supposedly, result in customers being “unhappy”.

Structure, discipline, belief and enthusiasm contribute to a corporate culture which provides delight for all … Chief Executive Officers included.


1.    Document a detailed job description – specified duties.

2.    Script a job specification – outline essential human attributes.

3.    Recruit discerningly – match profiles with individuals.

4.    Induct into a comprehensive service culture.

5.    Support, reinforce and celebrate consistent service delivery.

6.    Empower. Delegate authority to self-monitor and self-regulate behaviours.

7.    Reward consistent standards.

8.    Embrace P.R.I.D.E. – personal responsibility for delivering excellence.

9.    Insist on “one-touch” service.

10. Provide on-going customer feedback, and training.


Barry Urquhart

Marketing Focus

M:  041 983 5555


L:  (08) 9257 1777