Getting to the root of the problem, accountability, figuring out what went wrong…
These are all just nice ways of playing the blame game. Be careful, it can happen to you.
Yesterday an exterminator was supposed to come to my house. I called on Friday and I was surprised when they offered to come at 11:00 on Sunday, but with our busy household, it felt amazing--until they didn’t show up.
About 2:00, I called to let them know that we hadn’t see a technician. They promptly answered the phone and then the blame game began. “You weren’t on my list today,” the first guy said. “Let me find out what happened and I’ll call you back.”
“Ok” I said.
Five minutes later he called back. “I have spoken to the owner. He is going to look on the computer and see if you are scheduled today and he will get back to you. It might have been one of the other technicians that was working today.”
“Ok” I said.
“We are going to get to the bottom of this” he said.
“I don’t really need to know what happened, I just need someone to reschedule me” I said.
“The owner will call you in a little bit. If you don’t hear from him, please call me back.”
“Ok” I said, wondering what good that would do if calling him the first time didn’t work.
Five minutes later the owner called.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “You aren’t on our schedule at all.”
“Ok” I said.
“Are you sure we are the company you called?” Now I am an active participant in the blame game.
“I think so” I say, “In fact, I am pretty sure since you were a referral and I was on your website….also, if it wasn’t you, then it would have been another company that just didn’t show up--I’m pretty sure it was your company. I am 95% sure you are the company I called.” Now I am feeling uneasy. For a minute, the blame game makes me feel unsure--have I screwed up?
“Who did you talk to when you called?”
“A woman. Do you have a woman who answers your phone usually?” I ask.
“We have two but every company would have women answering their phone so that could be any company.” I am starting to be really, really annoyed by the blame game.
“I really don’t care whose fault this is, can we just get me on your schedule?” I quip.
“We can come tomorrow. I will make sure someone is there at a time that works for you. What works?” He returns to the top level customer service that this company usually provides and I am slightly mollified.
I schedule for 9am but leave perturbed. His service was ok but the blame game was so annoying. I didn’t want to play that game, and yet I somehow got sucked in. That is what the blame game is all about.
I am guessing when I called the first time something went wrong with the appointment booking--who knows…. It could be an online system that was down for a minute and the person neglected to go back. It could have been a distraction that had her fail to complete the booking. There could have had a fire drill. Somehow, my appointment didn’t get recorded. Any of those things might be worth looking at internally to try to avoid them in the future. The mistake is in exploring those things with me--the customer. I had a problem that needed a quick solution. I didn’t need to play the blame game and sucking me into the blame game almost lost them a customer.
Also, leaders need to be careful of creating rules to solve one-time problems. I imagine I was a one-time problem. Something happened to my booking but if you play the blame game, then you need to create a policy to make sure the problem never happens again. Everyone seemed so surprised by my problem that I imagine it was an anomaly. Good leaders need to avoid solving one-time problems with rules and policies. Try to understand and let it go. The blame game takes away from the work of the organization.
Avoid the Blame Game and figure out how to deliver value to your customers.