Perfecting Service Management

Issue #43

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship (Part 6): The Operations Review Process
by Craig Bailey

This is the sixth article in the series "Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship," where we discuss how managed service providers (MSPs) can effectively manage complex customer relationships while delivering solutions to the enterprise customer. In this article, we cover the "Operations Review Process."

In order to ensure an effective operations review process occurs, with the best possible outcome for you (the MSP) and the customer, several steps must take place. These steps are the responsibility of the Operations Supervisor or the Account Manager, depending on the relative strengths of each person on the particular account team.

Step 1: Pre-meeting Preparation

  • Discuss and agree with the client the purpose, content, frequency and participants, for the operations review report. It is important to include participants from all 4 quadrants of the relationship (as outlined earlier in this newsletter series)
  • Send meeting agenda to the customer, well in advance, including:
    • What will be covered
    • MSP participant list
    • Requested participants from the customer
  • Perform an internal dry-run in advance of the customer meeting. This should occur 5-7 days in advance for the "initial" Operations Review meeting that happens with each client, to allow the account team to become accustomed to their roles and responsibilities in preparing for this meeting. Subsequent dry-runs for each client should then occur at least 2-3 days in advance.
    • Determine who from the MSP will lead the meeting (Operations Supervisor or Account Manager)
    • Assign ownership of each agenda item. Who will perform research or pre-work and who will cover the topic in the meeting?
    • Assign ownership for capturing meeting minutes.
    • Walk-through the agenda with each member of the account team reviewing what they will cover.
    • Make any adjustments to the material covered, the approach taken ("it is not what you say but how you say it") and assign ownership of additional research or pre-work that may be necessary to ensure an effective outcome.

     

  • Prepare a quote for recommended service upgrades (Account Manager)

Step 2: Conducting the Meeting

  • Perform introductions
  • Review agenda (items that are on the agreed upon Operations Review Report) to confirm that everyone is in-synch about what will be covered
  • Discuss each agenda item
  • Review action-items, ownership and due-dates
  • Schedule the next meeting

Step 3: Post-meeting follow-up

  • Account team regroups shortly after the meeting to confirm what was achieved, ownership of action-items and next-steps / follow-through.
  • Send meeting minutes to all who are involved with, and/or have a vested interest in, the meeting. Minutes should include:
    • The agenda
    • Participants invited vs. attended
    • Key points covered (agreements reached, new issues identified)
    • Action-items with ownership and commitment dates
    • Scheduled date/time/location of next meeting

A good rule-of-thumb for the Operations Reviews meeting is to keep the frequency and level of detail related to what is covered commensurate with the complexity (both technical and business-wise) and activity of the account.

In the next article in this series, we will cover the critical topic of "it is not what you say but how you say it." If you would like to learn more about overcoming the common challenges that managed service providers face with their enterprise customers, feel free to contact us.

View previous articles in this series

 

Appreciating the Value of Front-line Supervisors
by Katherine Bolt

One of the most overlooked, most undervalued roles in most call centers and large customer-facing operations is that of the front-line supervisor. A great supervisor is worth a bag of gold, and is just as rare. Many supervisors have made the tremendous leap from hourly employee to the first step into what they hope will be a management career path. However, many first-time supervisors are discouraged and disillusioned with their jobs within a very short period of time. Their perceptions and hopes often collide with the realities of operational needs and requirements, and the talent that got them promoted can be wasted.

The difference between what a supervisor believes their goals and tasks to be and what actually happens can be summarized as follows:

Supervisors' perception of job:

  • 'Sit with' and aid new employees with their jobs as soon as they leave training and begin their jobs.
  • Conduct consistent and detailed call reviews with experienced employees for the purpose of increasing call efficiencies and first-call resolutions.
  • Teach employees to manage customer problems, how to appease irate customers with judicious use of financial adjustments, and efficiently manage the company's financial resources.
  • Handle escalated calls when needed.
  • Create the best and happiest call team ever.
  • Begin learning new skills necessary for further advancement.

What actually happens:

  • Assigned a plethora of reporting chores that usually add up to baby-sitting duties and HR requirements: reporting attendance, call volume and results analysis, systems management, and customer account review.
  • Responsible for headcount rationale and for defending their corresponding budget. As call centers and customer service are cost centers for most companies, this can be a tedious exercise, both emotionally and politically draining.
  • Act as the intermediary between their reps and management, advocating for their reps while attempting to meet management goals.
  • Extensively document their reps' activities, always with an eye towards defending their company against discrimination lawsuits or union grievances.
  • Sit with and guide their reps for only the company-required periods of time, often no more than once or twice a month per employee.
  • Reactive, instead of pro-active, to Quality Assurance reports, call volume reports and other customer management reporting.
  • Have little contact with the manager to whom they report, unless an unpleasant incident with customer or employee demands their collaboration.

How can any organization, large or small, help their new supervisors be effective, and keep experienced supervisors from burn-out?

  • Meaningful incentives - CSR behaviors such as attendance and call resolution are often rewarded, either financially or with perks. (See our white paper  Rewarding and Incenting Customer Service Representatives). Supervisors are often overlooked by corporate incentive programs; they should be incented for good managerial behaviors such as employee job satisfaction, team results and objective goal achievement and skill-building.
  • Free The Supervisors! - Allow them to do their jobs. Allow them the time to sit with their reps. Give them the necessary freedom from paperwork, if only temporarily, to structure and lead their teams to maximum efficiency. Let them hand off the reporting to some smart reps, who in turn may be looking to get a toehold on the corporate ladder. Most of all, free them from having to constantly defend their headcount. Set your budget and goals for the year, and stick to it as consistently as possible.
  • Goal-setting - Have an honest dialog with your supervisors, and help them formulate their specific goals. Many ambitious supervisors just know they 'want to be in management'. Help them understand what that means in your company, and show them other career paths if relevant.
  • Meaningful career guidance - Offer supervisors the tools necessary for promotion. Tell them in black and white terms what technical and managerial skills they will need for advancement. These may be advanced and specific IT skills, such as reporting database skills or updated network security training. They may need to learn general accounting and budgeting skills. If your company doesn't offer this type of training, encourage the supervisor to exploit any available college reimbursement plans.
  • Extra duties - Allow your good supervisors the opportunity to participate in non-call center projects. They'll gain valuable project management skills and get a better understanding of big-picture company processes and goals. Perhaps most significantly, they'll have a chance to perform well for upper management.

An employee ambitious and talented enough to become a supervisor in a high-volume, stressful environment is worth further development. They probably don't really need any more company t-shirts or knick-knacks. Rather, allow them the freedom, the tools, and the encouragement to become leaders, and you're on your way to creating a powerful management pool that will contribute to your company's future.

 

 


 

Contents
+
Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship

+ Recommended Reading

+ Appreciating the Value of Front-line Supervisors

+ Upcoming Panel Discussion: Strategies for Successful Growth

+ White Paper: Rewarding and Incenting Customer Service Representatives

 


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Upcoming Panel Discussion: Strategies for Successful Growth

Save the date: May 7, 2004

For those of you in the metro-Boston area, we invite you to join leading technology executives for a fast paced discussion focused on strategies for transforming your technology into a sustainable and successful business. The forum, entitled
Strategies for Successful Growth: Building the Emerging Technology Company, is being presented by Gadsby Hannah LLP. Customer Centricity president Craig Bailey, along with senior executives from some of Massachusetts' greatest technology companies (EMC, Teradyne, Sonus Networks, Kewill), will present their perspectives and strategies for leveraging assets for maximum profit.

The event will be Friday, May 7, 2004, from 8:00am -10:45am, at Babson College's Center for Executive Education, in Wellesley, MA. To register, contact Dianne Willens at 617-345-6968 or dwillens@ghlaw.com, or click here for more information.


Recommended Reading
Claire Gribbin, director of global support for Primus Knowledge Solutions, discusses the "support" role in her CRM Magazine article "Make Support the Competitive Differentiator." Often companies don't recognize the role their own support organizations can play in gaining customers. In the article, Ms. Gribbin discusses ways for a support organization to promote its services within the company as an added value to customers and a differentiating factor in customer purchase decisions.

White Paper: Rewarding and Incenting Customer Service Representatives
If you like our articles, you'll love our white papers! Our editing team has been hard at work generating white papers from the many articles we've written over the last year.

This issue's featured white paper is "Rewarding and Incenting Customer Service Representatives" by Craig Bailey.

Your people are your biggest asset -- especially in providing quality service and keeping customers happy.   But how do you keep them motivated and satisfied day in and day out?   This white paper offers innovative ideas that you can put into place immediately.


All of our white papers are available under the resources section of our website.


About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through better service delivery and management.

We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other key operations functions.

In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

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