Perfecting Service Management

Issue #11 Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Welcome!

topical index

Welcome to this edition of the Customer Centricity newsletter, where we explore ways you can improve the performance of your service organization.

In this issue Craig Bailey, President of Customer Centricity, shares insight on what you can do to break free from the inertia of 2002. Additionally, Bill Tobin, one of our associates, provides his third article in the series on reducing the stress in selecting a call management system. Finally, you won't want to miss our next edition when Ida Zecco begins the ACTIVE series: a self-assessment on how to hang-on to and grow your SINGLE source of revenue - the customer.

 

In this issue:

New - Perception Polling Service

Customer Centricity recently released a Perception Polling Service to help companies gauge customer perceptions and identify issues before they result in lost customers. This is a high-impact way for a company to obtain comprehensive feedback from its customer-base on an ongoing basis.

The perception polling process is designed to provide companies with specific feedback on what it is doing well, opportunities for improvement and suggestions from its customer-base on how to better meet their needs. The results of the process are compiled and presented in executive format based on the interactive dialog that occurred between your customers and senior consultants at Customer Centricity.

The complete press release is available at: www.customercentricity.biz/pr012803.html

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Customer Centricity Delivering A Customer Service Workshop

Customer Centricity is again scheduled to present "A Customer Service Workshop" at Rivier College, in Nashua, NH. This event will take place on Thursday, March 20, from 5:45-7:45pm. This program is sponsored by the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center.

To register contact Rosemary Macmillan at Rivier College at 603-897-8587 or via email at rmcmillan@rivier.edu.

Rivier College, Calendar of Events:

www.rivier.edu/administration/college_relations/calendar_of_events.asp#3-17

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From The President's Desk - The Year Ahead: What Can You Do?

Well folks, if your business is like most then 2002 was truly a TOUGH year. We have heard enough about the past, so I’m going to focus on the future. On the downside, we have a potential war looming and a sluggish economy. Does this mean that 2003 will be as tough, or tougher, on your business? It doesn’t have to be this way.

It has been demonstrated that firms which pull out of challenging business environments, stronger than ever, are those that take advantage of unique opportunities to capture market-share from the competition.

Let’s consider the law of inertia: the name given to the tendency of an object in motion to stay in motion, and an object at rest to stay at rest. In 2002 the tendency of many companies was one of either contracting (downsizing) or of remaining constant (freezing). To break out of the inertia of 2002, we each need to take new actions.

To become more cost-effective many companies are looking at the source of required products and services, and determining if they are getting the required return-on-investment. The main question for each of us: “Is my company positioned to pass the acid-test when my customer evaluates our performance in meeting their needs?”

How aggressive would you want your company to be in ensuring that you achieve a solid return on investment for products and services that you purchase? Would you stand for working with a product/service provider that had the following attributes?

  • Wasted your time, or the time of your personnel.
  • Required you to “manage” the relationship, more than you’d expect, because of past performance issues.
  • Didn’t anticipate your needs and performed for you on a reactionary vs. a proactive basis.
  • Repeatedly asked you to participate in customer satisfaction surveys, yet you received no follow-through indicating they are doing anything with the input you are providing.
  • Treated each interaction as a unique transaction instead of building on the long-standing relationship that you have with the firm.
  • Felt like each touch-point was with a different company making it difficult to do business with.
  • Put technology in place to create operational efficiencies for the provider, but added no value for you and made it even more difficult to do business with.
  • Rushed you off the phone because the contact center was incented to meet production metrics vs. meeting your needs.
  • Required you to re-educate the provider on your business, or specific needs, at each interaction.

If you are not convinced that you could pass the acid-test, then the tendency for your firm may be to continue downsizing, or remain in a frozen state for the foreseeable future. Isn’t it time to break away from the pack and create the tendency for growth? If so, a first step could be to ensure that you CAN pass the “acid-test”. By doing so, you can establish a position of strength that you can leverage in the market-place to capture market-share.

If you suspect that you can’t pass the acid-test, you are encouraged to seek out your trusted advisor(s) who can assist you in your continuous improvement projects. Take a baseline of where you are today, and put in place programs to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Some companies are doing just that. For example, we have recently had a number of firms engage us to perform Customer Service Assessments. This is a quick-hit/high-impact exercise performed with a low-burden on the company’s resources (people and dollars). The result is a comprehensive report of what is working well (and should continuously be reinforced), opportunities for improvement, and specific recommendations. In keeping with the reality of today’s business environment, continuous improvement initiatives cannot be focused on multi-month / multi-year programs. As such, we are sure to identify those key tactical / actionable recommendations that bring IMMEDIATE value to the client.

If you meet and exceed the needs of your customers, you are in a position of strength. If you don’t, the inertia of 2002 may prevail for your firm. Customer Centricity wishes you much success in 2003.

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Reduce the Stress in Selecting Your Call Management System – Part 3

By Bill Tobin

Request For Proposal Process

If you’ve been following along with me on the previous two articles in this series, you should be well on your way to making an educated decision about what product and vendor can provide your company with the best solution for your call management needs. At this point, you should have three to five vendors that you’ve identified as solid candidates.

Tip: As you pare down your list of vendors, be sure to communicate the right message back to the account manager you opened discussions with. If they are definitely out of the running, for whatever reason, let them know so they can take you off their prospect list and move on. However, if they barely slipped out of the top three, you may need to reengage them down the road if your top three choices falter. Let the account manager know this also, but tell them you will call them, if needed.

Now it’s time to really drill down into the product capabilities and vendor’s reputation and professionalism. This is my favorite part of the search process because of the product and industry knowledge you can absorb.

Let’s get the Request for Proposal (RFP) process rolling by creating the document.

The RFP should begin with an overview of your support environment. Be sure to include the number of users, the number of customers supported by the team and any integration requirements. Although you have already reviewed this with the account manager, put it in writing, because the person responding to this RFP may not be the account manager you’ve been dealing with.

Next, create a number of questions probing for specific detail around their product’s architecture, training & implementation process, and problem management. The difference between the RFP Document and your initial Requirements Document is this: If web functionality is a “must have” for your company, you would have included that in the Requirements Document. In the RFP, make them tell you how it works, how many live installations they have utilizing web functionality and when it was released.

I always average about 40 questions in my RFP’s. Here are a few examples:

  1. What is the average length of time, in calendar days, required to get your application into production?

  2. Describe the abilities of your application to automatically escalate based on elapsed time or due date.
    Tip: If you are looking for an out of the box product that can be implemented quickly and with minimal customizations, be sure to identify that to the vendor. Mandate that answers to questions like #2 above should be from an out of the box mentality.

  3. What is your company vision?

  4. Please provide an overview of your financial history. (Get this information to your Finance Team, since they are the experts in evaluating a company’s financial health.)

  5. If you haven’t done so already, please provide three references along with their contact information. The user references should be similar in size and industry to our organization.

  6. Please provide a cost proposal for your call management system to be installed at our location. Our company will need X number of user licenses, along with user and system administrator training and implementation assistance to bring us live on your product.

  7. Please list all other third party components our company will be responsible for to install your product; i.e. software licenses, servers, etc…

Now that you’ve created a quality RFP Document, pop on a cover sheet and send it to your short list of vendors. Give them a deadline to respond and be sure to include your contact information.

Next time, we’ll talk about reference checking, onsite demos and site visits.

Four Part Summary: (click links to go directly to previous articles)

As always, if you have any questions or need a friendly sounding board for an idea, don’t hesitate to contact Bill Tobin at (617) 909-6682 or billtobin@comcast.net.

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More About Customer Centricity, Inc.

Customer Centricity is a business consulting firm that partners with companies to improve the performance of their service organizations. We leverage our real-world experience to help our clients manage their customer relationships in more effective and satisfying ways.

Customer Centricity delivers on this promise by optimizing the interaction between people, process and technology to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction and increased operational efficiencies. We provide:

  1. Comprehensive assessments to identify the actions that will yield the greatest return;
  2. Skills Training to enable customer-facing personnel to deliver exceptional levels of customer service;
  3. Design and Implementation of business process techniques to serve the customer in efficient, effective and consistent manners; and
  4. Identification of the appropriate business processes to automate, enabling companies to get the most from their investments in technology.

In addition to our core practices, we also maintain a network of strategic partnerships to provide end-to-end consulting across your organization with a commitment to seamless execution.

Click on the following link to see what our customers have to say.

To learn more about Customer Centricity:

call: 603.491.7948

send e-mail to: info@customercentricity.biz 

or visit our web-site: www.customercentricity.biz

In Closing

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Copyright (c) 2003 by Customer Centricity, Inc. All rights reserved.