Perfecting Service Management

Issue #50

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Amateur or Professional – Is the Customer Always Right?
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 the phone.

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 downtime.

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
by Kurt Jensen

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 the finalists.


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 customers?

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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Recommended Reading
We 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.

Benchmark Survey
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.

Speaking Engagements
Need more help with Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship? Customer Centricity has been delivering presentations on this topic to interested organizations. Contact us if you would like a presentation tailored and delivered to your company.

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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