Perfecting Service Management

Issue #101

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

CCI's Craig Bailey Speaking at AFSMI World Conference
Customer Centricity Founder and President Craig Bailey is speaking today at the annual AFSMI World Conference, in Orlando. His fast-paced and dynamic seminar "Becoming Customer Centric" will provide a mix of strategies and practical techniques that companies can put into effect immediately to jumpstart their journey to becoming customer-centric. Participants in this seminar will learn the common misconceptions of becoming customer-centric, the scope of the customer experience, why it is important to become customer-centric, a case study of a customer-centric firm, and a roadmap to follow on the journey to becoming customer-centric. The time-proven strategies that will be covered have assisted numerous firms in becoming customer-centric. Find out how your firm can join the ranks of the truly customer-centric. Visit http://www.afsmi.org/ to learn more.

A Tale of Two Customers
by Craig Bailey

I've recently had the "opportunity" to do business with two general contracting firms, events which highlight the two extremes of the customer experience, and provide key lessons that should be internalized by all businesses.

Thumbs down

The first example relates to the experience of engaging a general contracting firm to install a pool. This firm was very responsive in the beginning stages leading up to "closing of the deal." And, they did break ground pretty much in line with the expectations that they had set. This is where things went awry. As you can imagine, when a decision is made to install a pool, the entire family is anxiously awaiting completion of the project (is it done yet?) to take their first dip.

After the first day of work, the contractor indicated that he would be back tomorrow. The following day, with sun shining brightly, there was no sign of the contractor. Our calls were greeted by an answering machine, with no response that day. The next day, we waited until mid-morning and again called the contractor, and again spoke with the answering machine. Can you feel the anxiety building? On the fourth day, the contractor finally arrived and did more ground breaking, indicating that he would be back again the next day. The following day there was a repeat performance: no contractor. This cycle continued for 2-3 weeks with the gaps between working days widening as the (New England) summer was passing quickly. With the family up in arms, we then called another general contractor who indicated that he could take over the project immediately and get it completed in a set period of time.

Thankfully, the original contractor did not yet have a cent of our money, so we had leverage…

The final call placed to the "current" contractor was something to the effect of: We have engaged another general contracting firm to complete the work. You have invested time on this project to get this far, but due to the fact that you are behind schedule and non-communicative, you will not be paid for a minute of work performed, and I'm turning this work over to this other contractor unless you get back to me in the next 24 hours.

The contractor did get back to us within the timeframe requested and we let him complete the project. However, this firm will NOT receive any positive references. In fact, when people asked about the project, they heard the realities of the experience and went with other general contractors to get their own pools installed.

The key lessons here are:

  • Reasonable customers know that "stuff happens."
  • (Customer) anxiety grows in a vacuum.

In this case, the general contractor was likely juggling multiple projects. If he would have been more communicative throughout the project and properly set expectations, he might have received positive references leading to additional business. I suspect he is out of business…

Thumbs up

At the other extreme, I recently engaged Professional Building Services, of Salem, NH, to perform a home restoration project. We started with what was anticipated to be a very isolated set of repairs. Throughout the process, this general contractor continued reaching out to me in the spirit of "over-communication." As we opened things up, the project continued to expand, resulting in a much bigger endeavor than anyone had expected. However, the contractor continued to manage our expectations and ensured that we took the pragmatic measures to complete the project. While the project was more expensive and longer in duration than we expected, the work was absolutely required to obtain the occupancy permit AND everyone was happy throughout because of the level of communications and expectations setting.

A few examples of the exceptional customer experience received from Professional Building Services include:

  • Nearly daily communications (phone calls, emails, text messages) to communicate status, obtain clarification, work logistics and obtaining approvals.
  • Going the extra mile to work with third-parties (including building inspectors) to ensure we only did what was absolutely necessary to restore the home.
  • Working with us on payment schedules vs. pausing work as we arranged funding.
  • Working throughout the night (contractors sleeping in their truck onsite at the project) to meet deadlines.

The key lessons here are:

  • Customers don't always know the entire scope of, or solution to, their problems. So, don't simply "do what you are told." Instead, assess the situation and recommend the required and pragmatic solution to their problems.
  • When a commitment is made to the customer, you need to do what you said you would do and deliver on that commitment.
  • You cannot over-communicate to your customer.
  • The result of delivering an exceptional experience is positive references (and free publicity!).

In all cases, Professional Building Services came through! And, as a direct result, they have received inquiries from others who would like to hire them. If you would like to visit them online, go to: www.professionalbuildingservices.com.

The above examples are simple case studies for which there are parallels in ALL industries. Which extreme do you want your firm to be at?

In closing, contact us if your firm is in need of a Customer Experience Assessment. We would be happy to perform for you a no frills assessment that quickly and clearly outlines what your firm is doing well, opportunities for improvement and a road-map to pragmatically take your firm to the next level in terms of delivering an exceptional customer experience.

 

Contents

+ AFSMI World Conference
+ A Tale of Two Customers
+ Recommended Reading
 


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Recommended Reading
The author of the best-seller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People does it again. Stephen R. Covey's previous book helps individuals become extremely effective in both their personal and professional lives, and is a "must read" in and of itself. His latest book The 8th Habit takes the individual to the next level (From Effectiveness to Greatness) and shares cutting-edge insight that is foundational to organizational transformation! In a nutshell, the book clearly shows the way "to find our voice and inspire others to find theirs."

On page 2 of his book Dr. Covey gets things started with the following…"I frequently ask large audiences, 'How many agree that the vast majority of the workforce in your organization possesses far more talent, intelligence, capability and creativity than their present jobs require or even allow?' The overwhelming majority of the people raise their hands, and this is with groups all over the world. About the same percentage acknowledge that they are under immense pressure to produce more for less. People face a new and increasing expectation to produce more for less in a terribly complex world, yet they are simply not allowed to use a significant portion of their talents and intelligence."

Is this your organization? Be careful in how quickly you answer this question…After working with numerous firms, our most common observation can be stated as: "same stuff different logo." That is, company after company we work with faces common challenges which can often be traced back to a single root-cause: lack of alignment to common goals and objectives. If every leader in industry were to pick up, read and APPLY the principles in this book, then management consultants would be "out of business."

The principles covered in this book for personal and organizational leadership, when lived, unleash human potential and inspire deep commitment and superior levels of service and satisfaction. This is a must-read for anyone who desires to be a truly great leader!

In closing, rest assured, we'll always be here for those individuals and organizations that don't take us up on the recommendation to read and apply what is covered in The 8th Habit.

About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through better service delivery and management.

We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other key operations functions.

In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

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