Perfecting Service Management

Issue #29 Wednesday, October 15, 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:
Facilitating Effective Change Efforts

By Craig Bailey

This is the fourth article in the series on effectively driving continuous improvement efforts. 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. We also presented ideas for creating a productive work environment for the change team. In this article, we will begin to discuss several proven approaches to effectively facilitate the change effort.

Dedicated - 4 Days / Week

As stated in previous articles, a highly effective change effort requires DEDICATED resources. This cannot be overstated. The reality is, however, that even though each team member has empowered someone else within the organization to cover his or her “day” job, some level of work is still piling up. If completely unattended, this can cause stress for the team members and/or may have impact on your company. Team members may try to stay on top of things during breaks, or at night, so that things don’t fall between the cracks. To avoid this, we have found it to be very effective to schedule the team members to be 100% dedicated to the project for only four days per week, allowing them to return to their “day” jobs on the fifth day. This dramatically reduces team stress and minimizes disruption to the business while at the same time ensuring that a significant portion of the week is allocated to the change effort.

Daily agenda

A daily agenda is a critical project management tool, serving to focus and direct the efforts of the team members, to achieve the desired project outcome. This well-thought-out agenda should include reviewing what was accomplished since the last time the team was together, where the team is relative to the overall plan, the objectives to be accomplished for the day, and the upcoming milestones. This ensures that the team remains in-synch with what has been completed and what still needs to be done.

No hidden agendas

If it is determined that a team member is operating with a hidden agenda, it is the responsibility of the project manager/facilitator to discuss this with the person, in private. The objective is to determine what is at the heart of the matter, and how it can be either addressed in the overall project or dismissed as something that is out of scope (will not be impacted). If confronting the individual team member does not resolve the issue, the team member may have to be replaced. Leaving the situation unresolved will hinder progress of the project.

Obtain 3rd-party input

As part of defining the new business methods and processes of your change effort and the approach for achieving its goals and objectives, it can be highly beneficial to obtain input from people external to your company. This should include customers and/or partners, both of whom have a vested interest in your success. You can do this by conducting a simple 20-minute interview with these 3rd-parties, asking leading questions within the scope of your change effort, such as: What is working well in your interactions with our firm; What isn’t working to the level of your expectations; and, If you were in charge what would you do differently. These leading questions will open the door for a deluge of useful input that can serve to guide your change effort.

In the next article, we will cover more elements of effective project management: case-study, break-outs, company-wide communications, and time allocation. If you would like to learn more about how Customer Centricity can help you successfully achieve the goals and objectives of your continuous improvement effort, please give us a call.

Previous articles in the series can be viewed here.

What Do Your Customers Really Think of You? (Part 3)

by Harry W. Heermans, Jr.

You cannot know how your customers perceive your service unless you ask them, a technique customer service guru Leonard Barry terms active listening. In his book Discovering the Soul of Service, Dr. Barry describes these approaches, points out how each differs from the other, and how taken together they can provide a comprehensive view of the customer. In this installment, we’ll look at focus group interviews, customer advisory panels, and service reviews.

Focus Group Interviews

Description: Small groups, typically no more than a dozen people, are convened and asked to discuss questions targeted at a specific topic. Groups can be customers, noncustomers, or employees.

Purpose: Focus groups are typically used to elicit ideas, suggestions, and opinions in an informal forum that stimulates thinking in a guided way. They are often useful when assessing the overall quality of service over a period of time or when exploring new avenues for service development.

Frequency: Focus groups can be employed in an as needed basis.

Limitations: Because of the small number of people engaged in a focus group, you have to be careful generalizing to the wider population of customers. This can be mitigated somewhat by selecting people representing different points of view, but this adds to the complexity of the process. Since time is limited, useful information can be gathered on only a narrow range of topics.

Customer Advisory Panels

Description: These are groups of customers who provide feedback and advice on service quality. They differ from focus groups in that they are composed exclusively of current customers who may participate repeatedly and can be polled via telephone, written questionnaire, or in-person panels.

Purpose: Customer advisory panels provide in-depth, timely feedback from customers. They may be experienced “power users” who are intimately familiar with products and services.

Frequency: Because of the expense and effort required, convene customer advisory panels on an as needed basis, no more frequently than quarterly.

Limitations: Guard against panels composed of chronic complainers on the one hand and cheerleaders on the other. The view of non-customers is excluded.

Service Reviews

Description: Service reviews are actual visits to customer sites or conducted via telephone or web-enabled interactive technology. To be effective, service reviews should feature a standard set of questions and list of issues for discussion.

Purpose: Service reviews are used to identify customer perceptions of service quality and priorities for improvement. They are most effective in face-to-face meetings because it demonstrates the commitment of the service organization by traveling to the customer site and permits the extra feedback non-verbal cues provide. It also allows the addition of multiple decision makers in the feedback process.

Frequency: Service reviews typically occur annually.

Limitations: Because of the expense and time commitment, they cannot be done often. In a company with many customers and a small service staff, they are often limited to larger, important customers, which means the voice of the small customer may be lost.

In the next newsletter, we’ll discuss: customer complaint, comment, and inquiry capture; total market surveys; and employee field reporting. Previous articles in the series can be viewed at:


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 enabling customer-facing personnel to deliver exceptional levels of customer service;
  3. Design and Implementation of business processes and organizational structures to serve the customer in efficient, effective and consistent manners; and
  4. Identification of appropriate business processes to automate, enabling companies to get the most from their investments in technology.

In addition to our core practices, we 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.
Customer Centricity Customers


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