Perfecting Service Management

Issue #28 Monday, September 29, 2003


topical index

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

In this issue:

Driving Continuous Improvement Efforts - Part 3
Establishing Effective Working Environments

By Craig Bailey

This is the third article in the series on driving continuous improvement efforts. 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. However, knowing what needs to be done and getting it done are very different things. In the previous articles, we discussed several reasons a "change" project might not progress as well as expected and how to avoid or overcome these obstacles. In this article, we will discuss how to set up a highly effective working environment for the “change team.”

If you have followed the approaches described in previous articles, you have assembled a dedicated team of resources that will be assigned to this project. Now you need to set up the working environment to achieve the maximum output from the brain-power on your team. Remember, you will have several people working together for long periods of time daily and potentially for several weeks. What follows are steps you can take to keep the team engaged, fresh and productive in your working sessions.

A room with a view

You will want to select a room big enough for the team, with plenty of natural light and a view to the out-of-doors. Productivity dwindles quickly if people are cooped up in an area that is too small and offers no opportunity to see the light of day. Additionally, to avoid distractions, you should try to arrange a room that is off the beaten path.

A wired room

Your change team will need access to resources that exist on the corporate network and their own laptops. Additionally, there may be questions that need to be asked via email to non-core team members. To support this access, you should pick a room with network connectivity, with enough ports for all team members. Encourage team members to bring their laptops to the working sessions, but enforce strict rules about their use. Specifically, the use of laptops and email should be restricted to meeting-related tasks; all other uses are distracting and should be prohibited. Your project facilitator should be watching this closely, as people can easily become disengaged and impact the progress being made by the team.

Additionally, it can be VERY effective for you to have a laptop projector in the room at all times. This can be used to display documentation that is being developed during the course of your working sessions and/or review materials as a team.
A room that you can write on

When selecting a room to hold your working sessions, ensure that there is plenty of whiteboard space. You should also obtain flipcharts. Flipcharts can be very effective in presenting the daily agenda as a focal point for the team, with the whiteboards used to support brainstorming.

Thinking Toys

Finally, to ensure productivity and creativity remain at high levels during working sessions, you are encouraged to provide toys. Toys? Yes, toys. Request that each team member bring thinking toys to one of your working sessions. Examples of thinking toys include: Silly Putty, Legos, hand-exercisers, paddles and balls. You can leave these in the project team room for use throughout your change effort. You may be surprised at how mature adults take to these toys. It is just another way to keep people engaged and it makes for a more enjoyable working environment.

The next article in this series will discuss how to effectively facilitate 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.

Previous articles in this series:

Driving Continuous Improvement Efforts - Part 1
Driving Continuous Improvement Efforts - Part 2


What Do Your Customers Really Think of You? - Part 2

By Harry W. Heermans, Jr.

This is the second article in the series, What Do Your Customers Really Think of You, where we explore different ways of performing active listening, a systematic way of asking your customers what they think of your products and services. Leonard Berry, in his book Discovering the Soul of Service, categorizes 11 approaches companies can use to build a service listening system. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, which we’ll highlight. In this newsletter we’ll look at transactional surveys; mystery shopping; and new, declining, and lost customer surveys.

Transactional Survey

Description: A transactional survey is administered following a service encounter to determine whether or not customers are satisfied.

Purpose: The purpose of the survey is to obtain feedback soon after the encounter has happened so customers readily remember the event. If the feedback is negative, changes can be made quickly to alleviate problems.

Frequency: Transactional surveys can be given at any time. They are particularly effective in measuring the effectiveness of change, i.e., just before and after a planned service change or product upgrade.

Limitations: Since transactional surveys ask about the most recent experience rather than customers’ overall opinion of service, it is not useful for assessing the ongoing impact of continuing service over time. Also, it does not account for the opinion of non-customers.

Mystery Shopping

Description: In “mystery shopping”, researchers act as customers to see what the customer experience is like and evaluate service quality.

Purpose: It is used to measure the performance of front-line personnel, overall response time, and systematic strengths and weaknesses in the customer contact service. The results are often used for coaching, training, and performance evaluation.

Frequency: Mystery shopping is expensive, so it is often used sparingly, no more than once or twice a year.

Limitations: Mystery shopping relies on the subjective judgment of researchers, so care must be taken in training them to approach each encounter consistently and to rate experiences as objectively as possible. Mystery shopping is inappropriate for some industries, where it is impossible to “create” a customer who is unknown to the customer service organization. Since some amount of deception is involved in “mystery shopping”, it is important to explain to employees the reason for and the value of this approach, otherwise there is the potential to damage employee morale.

New, Declining and Lost-Customer Surveys

Description: These surveys are given to new customers to determine why they have chosen a particular product or service, and to customers who have reduced or stopped using services altogether.

Purpose: These assessments are useful in determining why customers who have not used the product or service before chose to do so, what has changed that has caused customers to fall off, and what the reasons are that former customers have decided to forego purchasing the product or service altogether.

Frequency: These surveys can be given at any time, but offering them when there is either a significant uptrend or downturn is particularly useful.

Limitations: The company must be able to identify specific customers who fall into the appropriate categories and enlist their cooperation to participate.

In the next few newsletters, we’ll focus on additional active listening techniques, including focus groups; customer advisory panels; service reviews; customer complaint, comment, and inquiry capture; and total market surveys.

Previous articles in this series:

What Do Your Customers Really Think of You? - Part 1


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.

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.