Fumble, Stumble & Fail…

In the past few years, I have seen a disturbing trend in the customer support performance of a lot of different companies.  From the biggest internet companies to my local Dodge dealer, the service levels are inexplicably dropping.

After chewing on this for some months, I believe I may have an idea why so many charming and enthusiastic service people just can’t complete a flawless support cycle. Furthermore, it may explain why they don’t get upset when I correct them, even if I rant a bit about how we are getting to be such good friends after so many calls.

I’m not talking about the surly, petty bureaucrat mentality that delights in telling you, "I’m so sorrrry! You’ll just have to file a report with our complaint office in Stockton!" Those people have always been with us and are just background noise.

I’m talking about people who greet you politely on the phone, give every sign of interest in your situation, seem to execute the required steps, and fail miserably when it comes to getting your situation handled!

It is a terrible waste that all of this costly and cordial effort projects a brand mantra of: Fumble, Stumble & Fail

Looking for common factors, I came up with the following list:

  • polite
  • well-meaning
  • tolerant
  • not able to easily duplicate names, places, details
  • making the same mistakes over and over, while cheerfully attempting to fix earlier mistakes
  • spelling seems to verge on the fonetik, if you get what I meen

The warning signs have been visible for years now, but it took this school sign to show me why our educational system might be on its way down the toilet.


For those of you who are saying, "So…, what’s wrong with that?", I suggest you consider where that school puts competence on their priority list.

From the blogs that I follow, feelings are senior in importance to
ability as far as many lower school systems are concerned. Political
agendas pervert education in colleges to the point where I would not
last a minute in Foothill College or similar cesspools of academia.

The young people, who are our future, may be as bright as ever, but
they are being woefully short-changed by an educational system that is
increasingly run by incompetents.

The schools that consistently turn out superior students are isolated stars in a vast array of guttering candles.

If we do not reform our educational system so that our students
learn facts instead of attitudes, we might as well hand our economy
over to those nations that are training their children to become
tomorrow’s leaders.

Our children are being trained to become second-class citizens. If
our larger industries fail to institute remedial educational training,
they are going to see a continuing decline in customer service levels.

People cannot function effectively in an economy based on the
written word if they cannot read, write, and spell correctly. If they
don’t understand the words, they cannot grasp the ideas contained in

Update: KD Storch
is hosting a geat discussion on improving customer service. Guest
bloggers like Jon Strande are posting some valuable insights for those
who are interested in the vital area of customer service.
I feel that their comments are perfectly valid, but the underlying
problems must be solved if we are to enjoy continued prosperity as a

In a sense, they are showing us how to bail faster. I want us to plug the leaks.

Second Update: My local Dodge dealer is now following the lead of
their Subaru side of the house. The Subaru dealer has world-class
service and ensure their quality stays high by making follow-up calls
after every service visit. The Dodge dealer is doing follow-up calls
and they actually listened to me when I told them what was wrong.
Furthermore, they tell me what corrective action is being taken. If
they continue in this line, they have a great future ahead of them.

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0 Responses to Fumble, Stumble & Fail…

  1. CedarFever says:


    This is something my coworkers and I have been noticing among many newer engineers as well (I’m not an engineer, but I play one at work). Too many of them seem incapable of communicating basic ideas in written form – not even on schematics. Often they have difficulty expressing themselves verbally – especially over the phone. It is a real treat to work with an experienced engineer that can not only express himself, but is able to organize a project’s input.

    Outsourcing tech support to overseas locations is not the answer either. My brother and I had this experience last week (true story!): Said brother wanted to order more memory for his laptop from *Large Texas Based Computer Manufacturer*. We were in the car at lunch time and happened to be driving _right in front_ of the LTBCM main facility, but on his cell phone he was struggling with a friendly, yet unhelpful tech/sales rep somewhere on the Indian Subcontinent.


    At one time, LTBCM had an outstanding staff of reps based locally (I had a friend who was one) – a staff that understood the product and could communicate effectively with a customer to solve a problem. No more – and I’m not sure if the qualified workers could be found locally anymore to rebuild the team.

    The lack of proper basic education will prove to be quite a hinderance to U.S. industry in the very near future.

  2. The education of our workforce is a huge issue, as is those that lead and manage the employees (I question my own abilities to form a good sentance…).

    I invite you and your readers to check out the 6 different authors that are guest blogging this week on the issue of: “Customer Service: How Can it Improve”. Follow your link above for Jon Strande’s writing today.

    The main post thread is here: http://www.ktoddstorch.com/business/customer_service_how_can_it_improve/index.html

    New author each morning this week.

    Thanks for your great work David!


  3. Bill says:

    I have mixed feelings on this one. If I’m honest, I have to say that 90% of my career has been due to the inability of others to write the most basic of sentences. In other words, I have a job as a writer largely because others are unable to communicate with the written word. So there has always been a need for me and thus I get a paycheck.

    While I think people should be sufficiently educated to communicate effectively, I don’t want to put myself out of work. 😉

    More seriously, it is frightening how uneducated educated people are. And those who can’t read or write are doomed to sign contracts that allow everyone to profit from their efforts except themselves.

    (I hope that makes sense.)

    TITLE: Your So Rite
    URL: http://cedarfever.typepad.com/cedarfever/2005/01/your_so_rite.html
    BLOG NAME: CedarFever
    DATE: 01/17/2005 08:38:34 PM

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