In baseball “swing and a miss” means the batter swung but didn’t hit the ball. If the batter strikes out “looking” it means that the third strike was a “called strike”; the player didn’t attempt a swing but instead just watched the ball fly past home base somewhere in the strike zone. Batter out! Even the most casual of baseball fans know that the batter’s goal in most cases is to put the ball into play. As consumers we want the companies we do business with to go to bat for us put the ball into play. This can’t happen if they stand at the plate and simply take pitch after pitch without swinging the bat.
I recently concluded a prolonged service experience with a national furniture company. Carrying through with the baseball analogy this “game” had multiple rain delays, ended with several injuries, broke records for longest game in history, and ended up in a tie which is impossible in baseball but all too familiar in the realm of the customer experience.
For simplicity sake I’ll refer to the furniture company as LZ. I purchased two chairs from LZ and within a few months the fabric began wearing out. Some parts of the chairs looked ten years old after just four months of normal use. LZ’s service department sent technicians to my home several times to inspect and replace worn arms, leg rests, and cushions. LZ was more than willing to continue replacing parts but I wanted a long-term solution. My pursuit of this long-term solution took me from the service center, back to the store where I originally purchased the chairs, to LZ corporate HQ, back to the service center, and back to store. Each step of the journey took several days to several weeks waiting for returned phone calls, escalations, consideration, and decisions. In the end LZ replaced the chairs.
Reflecting on this experience I can’t help but think about all the missed opportunities for LZ. With each opportunity they just stood in the figurative batter’s box and watched the pitch pass by without ever swinging the bat. During what was a ten month period I spoke with a variety of LZ employees and managers and it became quickly obvious that there are deep-rooted problems in this organization. The team is comprised of unmotivated and poorly conditioned players using broken or antiquated equipment; the coaching staff lacks organizational and leadership skills; ownership is disconnected and out of touch. Three main things come to mind:
- When I first reported the problem instead of initiating a dialogue about potential root causes and solutions LZ mindlessly delegated the problem to un-empowered technicians with no service or communication skills. The technicians have no awareness or interest of how their actions impact the LZ brand. They are only programmed to do one thing: “inspect and replace”. Swing and a miss! Strike one.
- Except for one person I spoke with at the LZ corporate headquarters no one ever acknowledged my feelings, frustration, or in any way attempted to make an emotional connection with me. Instead they gave rote answers, told me the situation was above their pay grade, and offered hollow apologies. Swing and a miss! Strike two.
There are now two strikes against the batter. One more strike and he’s out. They’ve made two feeble attempts to hit the ball. The first two pitches could be knocked out of the park by a player of even average skill. But the LZ player is under-conditioned, poorly coached, and simply over matched. But wait – the next pitch is a gift: the pitcher throws a hanging curve ball up in the strike zone (very easy pitch to hit). The result is shameful…
- The new chairs were delivered three weeks ago and I haven’t received a call. No email. Not a peep. Not from the local LZ service center reps who know me by name and have my phone number memorized. Not from the manager at the retail store who made money off my original purchase and who should be thankful the chairs were replaced instead of being returned for a refund. Not even from LZ corporate with an interest in protecting their brand by making sure everything was taken care of to my satisfaction. Strike three – looking. Game over!