Amateur or Professional – Is the Customer Always
by Craig Bailey
As a service professional, you have likely heard the proverb "the customer
is always right." While there is wisdom in this statement, you must use
care not to take this literally. Here is a real-life scenario to consider…
A Managed Services Provider (MSP) received a request from a "demanding"
customer asking for full access to their managed systems environment to
perform a software install. The reality is that providing full read/write
access would compromise the MSP's ability to maintain the security, system
performance and uptime requirements of the contract.
As you can imagine, the service team wrestled with this request. On one
hand, they considered the philosophy that 'the customer is always right':
"It is their environment, and if we simply grant them access to do this
quick software install we have fulfilled on their important request. What
better way to demonstrate responsiveness to the customer?" On the other
hand, they considered the reality that if the customer's technical
resources mistakenly damaged the environment, they (the MSP) would
ultimately be responsible for fixing it.
Unsure how to proceed, the service team sought guidance from senior
management. Together we weighed the options, and then got the customer on
We explained to the customer that anything is possible. If they would like
us to grant them access, we would be happy to do so. And, (the most
important aspect of this entire conversation), upon completion of their
work we would have to re-provision/re-secure their environment so that we
could remain compliant with the contracted service level agreements (SLAs).
We explained this task typically requires 24 hours of downtime for an
environment of the size and complexity of theirs, and asked if they could
afford this downtime.
The answer from the customer was an emphatic "NO." The result: we sought
and found an alternative way for the customer to accomplish their
objective that did not require providing full access, or taking any
Principle: The customer is not always right. However, don't tell
them they are wrong. Help them come to that understanding as a product of
their own conclusion.
If you are in the business of helping customers find solutions to their
problems, make sure what they are presenting to you are problems, not
solutions. It is important to know the difference between what a customer
wants and what a customer needs. In this case, the customer
wanted full access to their environment when they needed to
install software. Once you get past the want (or demand), you are
in a better position to help the customer fulfill on their need.
The next edition of our newsletter will share additional scenarios of
"amateur or professional."
View previous articles in this series.
Exploring Outsourcing: Selecting the Finalist
In the previous article in this series, we concluded with a narrowed down
list of potential outsourcing vendors, likely two or three, who delivered
superior RFP responses and oral presentations. At this point in the
process the likelihood of each vendor to deliver on requirements is very
high. Said another way, each can do the job. So how do we select from
here? Below are example areas to revisit or explore to further narrow down
Have any priorities changed? For example, has the cost of doing business
become a priority over concerns regarding real or perceived variances in
quality? As previously stated, the likelihood of remaining vendors being
able to deliver on requirements is very high – are we now facing a
commoditized service? If the answer is yes, take another look at the
pricing matrix and your answer will be clarified.
If price is priority, it is very hard for onshore and near shore firms to
compete with offshore providers. However, outsourcing offshore has other
considerations such as dialect, culture and sheer distance. Other issues
such as political concerns or customer backlash add up to make the 35-50%
savings offered by some offshore arrangements less attractive.
The two support models – dedicated or shared - typically offer different
levels of pricing, flexibility, and service. Given requirements of
performing the actual work, does a dedicated team make sense or will a
shared environment deliver?
Having read RFP responses and sat through oral presentations, you are no
doubt far more educated about outsourcing than when you started and
certainly have intuitive feelings toward one vendor or another. These are
important factors to weigh into your decision.
Vendor Site Visit
Visiting the vendor site can deliver a huge wealth of information. From
meeting tactical supervisors and managers to listening in on calls, visits
of this nature can make the vendor selection clear. A few specific areas
to consider are as follows:
Introductions to key personnel – Supervisors, managers or team
leads make the operation happen.
General Tour of facility – Does the firm offer a pleasant
environment that enables employees to deliver excellent service to your
Integration review – How does the vendor propose to integrate?
Customer call assessment (listening in on calls) – Are calls
handled the way you would want them handled? Are customers treated in the
way you want your customers treated?
As the ultimate decision point comes closer, keep in mind it is ok to go
back and forth, discuss the various aspects and ask additional questions.
Contact us if you would like to share outsourcing or RFP experience.
If you are thinking about outsourcing, we can help you manage the process,
while you focus on your business!
View previous articles in this series.
+ Amateur or Professional
+ Exploring Outsourcing
+ Recommended Reading
+ Benchmark Survey
+ Speaking Engagements
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offer 2 articles that discuss call center service levels and examine how
good service really needs to be.
Call Center Magazine presents an article by Keith Dawson entitled
When Service is "Good Enough." Rather than strive for perfection,
Mr. Dawson advocates understanding how good is "good enough" and making
that your goal.
The Call Center Learning Center (sponsored by Prosci Research) presents a
4-part series on service level improvement, based on information gathered
for its 2004 Call Center Benchmarking Report. The third article,
Service level - how good is good enough, focuses on setting
appropriate service levels and achieving the proper balance between
customer satisfaction and operational costs.
A big "thank you" to all
of you who participated in our recent, first annual Customer Service and
Delivery benchmarking survey. We are currently processing all of the
responses and preparing the summary report. The report will be distributed
in the next couple weeks to those of you submitted responses and included
an email address. In addition, we will be contacting 10 randomly-selected
respondents to receive their choice of CCI apparel.
Need more help
with Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship? Customer Centricity
has been delivering presentations on this topic to interested
Contact us if you would like a presentation tailored and delivered to
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
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