Perfecting Service Management

Issue #18 Tuesday, May 13, 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:

Avoiding the Death Spiral While Reducing Operating Costs - Part 3

Avoiding the Death Spiral While Reducing Operating Costs provides a review of approaches that you can take to decrease operating costs while maintaining customer confidence and increasing customer satisfaction. This series covers the following topics:

  • Cease activities that provide no value-add
  • Implement efficient and repeatable processes
  • Focus on existing product quality instead of new features and functions
  • Enable customers to self-serve - Perform elements of the work with lower cost labor
  • Segment the customer base and provide “appropriate” levels of support for each
  • Make informed, not random, cuts
  • Cease big, expensive projects with long-term ROI
  • Renegotiate vendor contracts

In this edition we will cover: Implementing efficient and repeatable processes

Aligning your personnel to common business processes can have a dramatic short- and long-term impact on improving operational efficiencies and increasing customer satisfaction. Additionally, this will prepare your firm for scaling the business during the next wave of growth, which is sure to come. Some of the most common operational areas that you should consider defining and implementing repeatable processes include:

  • Order Management - The activity of processing customer orders to ensure quality order fulfillment. This is where the proverbial statement "garbage in, garbage out" most applies.
  • Order Fulfillment - The activity of delivering/installing your product/service per the customer order, ensuring customer acceptance which locks in your ability to invoice the customer.
  • Inquiry Management - The activity of managing customer inquiries (email, web, phone) in such a way that the customer receives a consistent level of response regardless of the medium used to obtain service.
  • Customer Problem Management - Aligning the entire organization to a common and proactive model for responding to customer problem reports, performing customer notifications when significant disrupting events occur, and ensuring management attention to avoid surprises.
  • Change (or Maintenance) Management - Aligning your organization to a common model for performing maintenance activities on the service delivery infrastructure in such a way as to minimize or eliminate the impact this work has on the customer-base.

To be effective, your operational business processes must include, at a minimum, the following elements:

  • Executive sponsor - A senior executive that is committed to the success of the process, and performs periodic (monthly or quarterly) reviews to ensure process performance remains on track.
  • Process owner - A seasoned leader with the proven ability to hold personnel accountable to the process and continuously looks for ways to improve the process.
  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities that personnel are trained on prior to process roll-out.
  • Performance metrics - Baseline (how are we doing today?), benchmark (how are others in the industry performing?) and goals (what level of performance do we want to demonstrate to be on par with the competition and on what areas of performance do we want to "beat" the competition?). Upon achieving performance goals determine when to "raise the bar".
  • Data integrity - Ensuring ownership of each element of customer data throughout the customer lifecycle.
  • Continuous improvement - The reality is that these processes are NEVER done. On a periodic basis (monthly or quarterly) stakeholders of each process should get together to discuss what is working, opportunities for improvement and make recommendations on changes to meet the ever-changing needs of the customer.

The benefits that you will realize from a focus on consistent and repeatable processes include increased customer and employee satisfaction, as well as improved operational efficiencies. Investing in this area allows you to respond to both the immediate (short-term cost reduction) requirements and long-term operational goals.

Upcoming newsletter editions will cover additional items on the topic of “Avoiding the Death Spiral While Reducing Operating Costs”.

Previous articles in this series:

Part 1   Part 2

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Supporting New Product Roll Outs

By Bill Tobin

Most customer service professionals have, at one time or another, been blindsided with customer contacts about a product or service that the call center was not aware of. This can be your worst nightmare, the product has hit the streets – been released to the customers without the approval or knowledge of the Contact Center. The wave of incoming calls and emails start slowly, but in a matter of days, or even hours, the tidal wave has hit.

Once the water has receded and you have the situation somewhat under control, schedule a Post Mortem Meeting with the management team to review the lessons learned from this rollout. In preparing for the next rollout, feel free to use my Top 10 list below to recommend an improved, methodical rollout process to your peers.

  1. Who will the customer contact for help – no matter what the problem or question? Often, the customer won’t know if it’s hardware, software, or procedural.
  2. Has everyone throughout the service chain been trained, at a minimum, on how to respond consistently to the customer questions? At a deeper level, have they been trained on how to analyze and troubleshoot various issues pertaining to the new release?
  3. Do the support teams have product documentation and release notes on how to use the product correctly? Have they all read the documentation and had hands-on experience using the product?
  4. Be sure the frontline analysts have a single escalation point to contact for assistance, both from a technical and a business perspective.
  5. Has there been one consistent message communicated to the customers about the product rollout?  In some cases, the customers are flooded with emails from different parts of the organization and are confused about which rollout dates are valid.
  6. Do not assume a customer, or your frontline staff, will have the time to read a manual before trying to use a new product.
  7. Be sure any and all organizations that a customer might call for help are aware of the rollout, along with who the central point of contact is. This could include remote staff, marketing, sales, third party vendors, etc…
  8. Be sure that all issues are logged and tracked – this is the only way you will be able to evaluate the product and training needs. If there is no automated system in place for logging calls, a spiral-bound notebook clearly labeled for the purpose of logging all contacts, questions and problems should be utilized at both the customer site and the support provider’s desk. The trends and information extracted from the call history will be invaluable to the success of the rollout.
  9. Start an FAQ list of those issues that will help the next customer contact.
  10. For large rollouts to multiple customers: Create and post the week’s Top 5 hottest questions on your web site.

WERE YOU SUCCESSFUL?

There should be a scheduled meeting at the end of each week for you to report on the week’s call volumes, type of calls and to identify any trends. This should continue for at least the first four weeks of the rollout. Hopefully, the meeting will be a brief checkpoint with minimal incidents to report. However, if there is a major problem with the hardware, software or procedural issues, this meeting will head those off and minimize firefighting. I’ve seen companies wait a month to discuss a rollout and by then the damage is already done. The product may have a major flaw and the customers may be angry with you for the surprises, which you did not prepare them for.

Confirm that the statistics and trend analysis is disseminated to the members of the cross-functional teams supporting the rollout. It’s important they know how the rollout is going and what the company is learning from this experience.

If you have any questions or want to bounce an idea off a friendly sounding board, 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.