Perfecting Service Management

Issue #26 Tuesday, September 1, 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:

Driving Continuous Improvement Efforts - Part 1

By Craig Bailey

If your company is like most, you have identified opportunities for improvement, designed to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. This list could have resulted from a change in the marketplace, customer feedback, 3rd-party assessment or your own good business judgment. You KNOW what needs to be done. Additionally, you have commissioned a team of internal resources to implement the required improvement programs.

Too often, though, when you check on the status of these programs, you find they aren’t progressing as well as you’d like. Delays can result from a number of causes, including:

  • Lack of "outside the box" thinking
  • Fear of change
  • Turf battles
  • Conflict with team member day jobs
  • Lack of management / executive commitment

The project team, even if they recognize the reasons for the delay, may not share them with you directly. In this article, we will review some of the above challenges and provide approaches for addressing each.

Lack of "outside the box" thinking

This issue often results from employees whose attitude is "this is the way we’ve always done things." To avoid this situation, you need to make sure that the employees involved in the change effort know specifically WHY this initiative is required. They need to have the same visceral understanding as executive management does. Is the long-term success and viability of your company at stake? Then tell them! "We either need to change the way we are doing business or we will each need to find another employer within X months." Treat your team as adults and let them know what the company is up against and the importance of the program that you have commissioned them to drive.

Fear of change

The reality is that people may fear for their jobs. When employees are assigned to your continuous improvement efforts, they must each possess a high degree of confidence since a possible outcome is the dramatic change or loss of some jobs (including those of the team members). However, if you have assigned the "best and brightest" of your resources to this team, then the reality is that another meaningful role will very likely be identified for them. As such, a ground rule to consider for this effort is for each team member to assume that their job is gone prior to getting started. This will help to free the team members up to design the processes, roles and responsibilities that are best suited to meet the needs of your customer base and business. Finally, you will need to consider providing a reward or some form of commitment that "they will be taken care of" regardless of how the changes prescribed by the team impact their job.

Turf battles

Too often "managers" look at the number of employees in their organization as a basis of power and prestige. However, what your company may need is a redeployment of resources to better meet the needs of your customers. Use great care when assigning personnel to this team. You require "leadership" qualities, people who aren’t trying to hang on to their "power base" but are willing to apply the available resources in the best way to meet the objectives of the initiative. As such, it will make sense to set the stage in the beginning that team members may come out with more or fewer people on their team, and that this is NOT necessarily a reflection of how each of them is valued individually.

The next article in this series will discuss the remaining challenges identified above. Future articles will cover establishing the proper working environment for the "change team" and creating a "road-map" to guide the change effort.

If you would like to learn more about how to ensure the success of your continuous improvement effort, feel free to give us a call.

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Customer Behavior Metrics - Part 4
(Industry and Growth/Learning)

By Bill Riquier, Business Metrics Specialist

This is the 4th and final article in the series on using customer metrics to prevent customer problems. Previous articles highlighted the importance of using customer metrics to prevent customer problems and discussed customer behavior and company performance as specific areas with important metrics for identifying and predicting trends in perceived customer value. This article will discuss additional metrics that are leading indicators of change in perceived value.

The Industry

Even your most loyal customers view your company within the framework of an industry. Perception of value is very susceptible to changes in the marketplace and competitor maneuvering. While many companies have done the work to establish performance benchmarks for key customer-facing activities, many have not established a rigorous process for continuously updating these numbers. Once these levels become “stale,” a business can find itself dealing with customer problems, even while outperforming existing benchmarks! Depending on the rate of change in an industry, businesses must schedule regular reviews of their performance benchmarks.

Growth/Learning

Building your company’s skills involves more than just training your customer-facing staff in specific service proficiencies. Skill, in this context, denotes the ability of your organization as a whole to effectively care for the customer. Inactivity in your company’s learning and growth areas will result in future customer relationship problems. Even with a good system for driving current customer attitudes and behavior, a lack of skill-building activity will leave your staff unprepared for future challenges. Unfortunately, measuring this activity is tricky. Some measures that I have used and others suggested by the Balanced Scorecard Initiative include:

  • Levels of value-added per employee

  • Percentage of staff time spent improving customer relationships

  • Alignment of employee attitudes with the company’s customer philosophy

  • Number of staff hours spent in approved trainings

  • Number of customer relationship improvement initiatives

  • Number of customer-facing business process improvement initiatives

Experienced managers can apply effectiveness weights to each of these activities based on their opinion. While subjective, this system will at least offer an approximation of the current level of skill building, relative to other periods of time.

The right set of customer metrics is unique to each organization. Your company will get the most out of a program that not only captures the traditional outcome measures of the customer relationship, but also tracks the activity that can lead to serious problems. I suggest doing a modified “Force Field Analysis” that identifies all the forces that drive a customer’s perception of your relationship in either direction. Then determine the best metrics for tracking changes in those forces. In fact, after performing this assessment, you can give yourself a point in the growth and learning column!

Bill Riquier can be contacted at w.riquier@comcast.net

Previous articles in this series:

Don't Solve Your Customer Problems: Prevent Them!
Identify Changing Customer Attitudes
Prevent Customer Problems with Company Performance Metrics

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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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