When there's a gap between someone doing her job and doing the right thing, then management has failed.
Plenty of customer service people would like to do the right thing. They'd like to fix the problem that's presented to them. But frustration hits when the policies and procedures and metrics they've been given to work with won't let them.
For the last two weeks, the audio version of The Dip has been for sale at the iTunes music store. And for many iPods, it doesn't work. Hundreds of people have written to me and let me know. These hundreds of people have written to Apple, too, and they've shared their notes with me.
In general, the responses from Apple that people are reporting are respectful and straightforward. But none of the responses have addressed the problem. Apple could easily take the product down. Or they could change the description in the store with a note that says, "sorry, but it doesn't work on some iPods, we're working on it", or they could email everyone who had bought one and let them know what the plans are. And, yes, best of all, they could fix it.
The amazing thing is that except for the last choice, each approach is free, quick and relatively easy. If the head of the iTunes store focused on this problem for ten seconds, it would go away. The challenge isn't a lack of tools or resources, it is a lack of alignment. For a service rep in this particular situation, "doing my job" means making the person go away, while "doing the right thing" means taking initiative and actually solving the problem. The customer service reps don't have access to the tools (or the authority) to do what the company would actually benefit the most from.
Getting your team in alignment (having their job match their tools match their mission) is perhaps the first job a marketer has to do.