Perfecting Service Management

Issue #12 Tuesday, February 18, 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 Ida Zecco, one of our associates, shares her self-assessment (ACTIVE): providing insight on how to hang-on to and grow your SINGLE source of revenue - the customer. Additionally, Bill Tobin provides his 4th and final article wrapping up the series on reducing the stress in selecting a call management system.

 

In this issue:

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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ACTIVE (Floats Like A Butterfly, Stings Like A Bee…)

By Ida Zecco

We’ve all been at the other end of that fateful call when your most valued, installed account moves to a competitor. How did it happen? The illusive customer; how do you keep these valuable accounts with an environment of highly competitive pricing and services? Didn’t the last customer satisfaction survey reveal that the customer was happy with your service and pricing? During your last visit to the customer site, didn’t your sales report reflect that the IT Manager was “blown-away” by the responsiveness and knowledge level of your company’s tech staff? So what happened? Why are they leaving? Why are you the last to know? How will this effect your quarterly/yearly forecast? Can your pipeline make up for the loss? Is it too late to win the customer back?

There are countless activities that can be initiated by your company that may avoid this situation. Sometimes the smallest changes within your own service or product offering can enable you to make a substantial impact in retaining your best customers as well as your bottom line. To begin a simple, self-assessment, you might want to consider an exercise that I like to call ACTIVE.

A - Account Management
C - Customer Lifecycle vs. Sales Cycle
T - Account Team
I - Internal Infrastructure
V - Value Proposition
E - Enable Customer Involvement in Product/Service Development

A - Account Management is probably the single most important activity in gaining, controlling and properly maintaining an installed account. Unfortunately, the “sales cycle” is too often viewed as “contract to cash or C to C.” That means: get the contract signed and get the first bill
out!” By then, the sales person is on to the next sale with little or no-hands on knowledge of the account, until, of course the next sale opportunity arises.

As we all know, more often than not, installation, testing and expected operability of the product and services are performed well beyond the first billing cycle. “C to C” is a widely-spread and debilitating activity that has lead to a high turn-over of valuable, installed customers and a substantial decrease in repeatable business.

In the sales cycle there are dozens of “cracks” from the time in which a customer agrees to do business with you to the actual performance of your product and services. This includes the time before the contract is even signed! There are many departments and teams of people who provide expertise throughout that cycle, but there is only one Account Manager, only one person that is and should be responsible for the success of the customer. The Account Manager knows the temperature of every level of the customer relating to the expectations set by your company. From the customer’s CEO to the end-users, the Account Manager is surveying, evaluating, reporting back to both your company and the customer, adjusting and improving, according to evaluation results. If at anytime during the cycle, there is a breakdown, or expectations that are not met, the damage control due to the lack of trust experienced by your customer can impact future revenue, account references, inability to penetrate deeper and wider within the account, a decrease in customer satisfaction survey results, and ultimately account control. Are your Account Management and/or Sales Process in place to avoid these common pitfalls? How do you know? How is it measured? Do you have a strong, documented, measurable methodology? Processes?

I will review remaining elements of this self-assessment (the "CTIVE" in ACTIVE) in subsequent newsletter editions.

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Reduce the Stress in Selecting Your Call Management System – Part 4

By Bill Tobin

Onsite demos, Reference Checks, Site Visits Selection

If you've been following along in this series, you should be down to the final three vendors - hopefully. When last we met, you had invited all three to respond to the RFP. Don't wait for the returned RFP's to get rolling on the next three critical steps. Let the games begin.

Onsite demos Invite the vendors to present their product's features and functionality to a core team of individuals at your company. This could be the same audience from your kick-off meeting. The demo should be focused on the needs as defined in your Requirements Document. You should require only out-of-the-box functionality for this demo. The meeting should be scheduled for 3 hours. This will give the vendor 90 minutes to present with the rest of the time for additional questions (and hopefully answers). Also, let them know that you require someone who knows their application intimately, as you may have some technical gurus in the audience with pointed questions.

Tip: I would not suggest letting the vendors know who the short list of competitors are. You want them showing you their product's capabilities. You don't want them leading with specific features they know their competitors lack.

Be sure to take diligent notes in order to summarize and compare against the competition later. Also, document every outstanding item that either you or the vendor committed to follow-up on and collaboratively assign a due date to it.

Reference Checks One of your RFP questions should have been, "If you haven't done so already, please provide three references along with their contact information. The references should be similar in size and industry to our organization". Let your vendor know that you would like those reference names and contact information as soon as possible. Three vendors times three reference checks each means you have at least nine people to connect with.

Tip: Prior to making these information-gathering phone calls, it would greatly help to have a questionnaire at hand to ensure you gather all the information you need in one phone call. Questions should solicit information on the company's experiences with the implementation, training, documentation and technical support, as well as the number of actual users versus licenses purchased. This questionnaire will also be used later during the formal reference checking of your short list of vendors.

Site Visits In addition to speaking to references on the phone, I always want to get out there to a live implementation, in as similar an environment to my operational infrastructure as possible. Ask each vendor to provide you with the names of a couple of clients that you can potentially visit. Call, introduce yourself, and set up a convenient time to meet. Bring along a couple of team members, including the person who will be the system administrator, if that decision has been reached. Let him or her see the application in use and chat with the technical guru at the reference site.

Selection Congratulations, if you perform all the due diligence steps outlined in this four part series, you will have a bucket-full of valuable information to aid in making an educated vendor selection. I've found that creating spreadsheets is a great way to compare functionality and cost. Don't forget to rate the vendor's responsiveness to your questions, no matter what they were. If they are slow to respond to your questions now, just think what their "sense of urgency" might be when you're a customer and need their help. I also like to give each of their 800 support lines a call and see what type of treatment I get.

The final negotiation and selection process will require additional communications with all three vendors, as you finalize every detail. If in doubt on anything from a vendor, get an answer, it will come back to bite you. At some point you will reduce the competition to the top two. It now gets a little easier to tally the pros and cons of each.

Finally, wrap up your research, along with all the supporting documentation, into a clear, concise document ready to be presented to your senior management team for approval.

It's been a pleasure sharing my methodology for selecting a call management system with you. 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

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

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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.