Perfecting Service Management

Issue #15 Tuesday, April 1, 2003


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:

Are Your Service Personnel Empowered?

One of the first challenges that I was presented with when taking on the leadership role of a customer service organization provided a valuable lesson, in unleashing the power of the resources on my team.

A senior customer service representative approached me with a dilemma. She new very well what the established procedures were for this particular situation but didn't feel that following them would be appropriate, in this specific circumstance.

Because I was new to the role, I wasn't familiar with the rules or why they were established. So, I said "Leslie, if you were me, what would you do?" She gave her answer. I said "Go do that. If it turns out to be the wrong response to this situation, tell everyone I told you to do it. If it turns out to be right, then you should feel good about the decision you've made to take care of the customer."

The look on her face after hearing this was incredible. At that moment, she knew that our approach to delivering customer service would be based on principles, guidelines and best judgment. NOT on hard and fast rules that are unquestionably applied to every circumstance. She felt empowered.

What I have found is that for every rule there is an exception. And, in the heat of the moment hard and fast rules can actually get in the way of delivering excellent customer service. When designing your customer service function you need to define the basic guidelines and procedures, establish the principles by which you will operate, hire personnel with a strong customer service ethic and then unleash your team to deliver outstanding customer service. Don't let hard and fast rules cause you to deliver poor customer service.


What to Do When Customer Service Asks “Where’s the Data?”

By Lauren Weiss

This is the third article in a series on managing and using customer data.

See related articles:

  • Strengthening Customer Relationships With Data Integrity (3/4/03)

  • Is Your Customer Data a Competitive Asset? (3/18/03)

Easy access to accurate data is essential for front-line customer service representatives. They need all pertinent information at their fingertips while they are conversing with customers. So when they complain that they don’t have the data they need, what do you do?

The first step is to understand what the real issue is. Possibilities include:

  • Data is there, but care representatives don’t know it

  • Data is known to be there, but it takes too long for care representatives to find it

  • Data can be found, but it is often wrong and can’t be trusted

  • Data is in a system that care representatives cannot access

  • Data is not captured anywhere

Once the root issue has been determined, the best solution can then be identified.

Case 1: Data is there, but care representatives don’t know it.
This is the easiest scenario to address. No system or process work is necessary; all that is required is training. Educate the care staff where to find the information they need.

Case 2: Data is known to be there, but it takes too long for care representatives to find it
This could be one of 2 problems: (1) the system is too slow, or (2) the screen flow is not optimal. In the first case, the system work required might be as simple as adding database indexes to accelerate certain data queries. Alternatively, it might require investing in higher performing hardware or software engines. In the second case, there needs to be process analysis, likely followed by some amount of system work. Work with the care staff to understand what data flow is most beneficial to them. In other words, how should data be organized to best support their process flow? Based on this analysis, fields and screens (the interface) can be modified within the system. If other groups use the system, however, be sure to consult them on proposed changes. It would be a shame to improve one area only to inadvertently cause negative impact to another group.

Case 3: Data can be found, but it is often wrong and can’t be trusted
This is a process issue. As mentioned in an earlier article in this series, data owners should be identified for each data element. Those owners are responsible for ensuring the data is complete and accurate. Processes should be put in place to support this, and systems should be used to enhance the processes (for example, to prevent blank fields, or to automate data validations).

Case 4: Data is in a system that care representatives cannot access
This is a larger systems issue. How it is addressed can depend on things like systems infrastructure and organizational politics. Ideally, care representatives would be given direct, seamless access to systems they need. Alternatively, data fields can be added to the system(s) they can access. It then becomes a challenge to populate the data correctly. If possible, the data should come from whatever system is primary for that data. This means additional system work to establish or augment system data feeds. Avoid creating new data fields that aren’t linked to their primary systems; inevitably those data elements will become inaccurate and useless.

Case 5: Data is not captured anywhere
Addressing this will require a little of everything. New required data elements should be analyzed in conjunction with existing processes, and should be added to the system in a way that best supports these processes. As mentioned earlier, data owners should be identified, and these new data elements should be incorporated into existing data maintenance processes. Training should be provided to make everyone aware of the new data.

Ensuring care representatives have the data they need is important, but it is not always difficult. Understanding the true data issue will help determine the complexity of the problem and its solution.

In our next Newsletter, we’ll review the basic, minimum customer data needed to provide effective service.



ACTIVE - Part 4

By Ida Zecco

This is the fourth article in the series, which covers the six-step self-assessment process, ACTIVE, to help you to hang-on to and grow your single source of revenue, the customer.

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

I – Internal Infrastructure: Your people, processes and technology need to be aligned to a common strategy in terms of how you serve the customer. To determine where you stand, in this regard, you are encouraged to perform a thorough audit: an audit of how each employee’s activity relates to serving the customer and/or supports the generation of revenue, and how your processes and technology support these objectives.

Ineffective, inefficient processes are common drains for many companies. Employees who must utilize different and quite often conflicting systems waste time, energy and productivity.

So, ask yourself: “What are my people/process/technology requirements to support the services and products I have promised to my customer? You may require several processes and systems to meet your end-to-end customer support/service needs. Important elements to consider: Are they all focused on the same goals and objectives? Do they talk to one another? Can information be shared? What customer information must be available with the least amount of time and effort, and is it? Is it accessible by remote users? Is the information available for on-line support? How much e-commerce/e-service should be available to customers? What reports will I need and who will require them? Will everyone be able to generate reports when they need to? What additional training/development is required for employees/customers? What can/should be measured? Who will require the measurements? How/when will I know I have made a good investment?

Aligning your internal infrastructure (people, process and technology) to common goals and objectives ensures that you achieve the highest possible return-on-investment (ROI) on your customer-focused initiatives.

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

Previous articles in this series:

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3



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: 

or visit our web-site:

In Closing

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