Becoming Customer Centric
by Craig Bailey
It is the aspiration of many companies to become customer
centric. This series of our newsletter will share learnings and approaches
with the hope that it will help you in your quest to transform your
company into a customer centric organization. To be clear, this is a
journey and not a destination.
A first step in becoming customer centric is to define what it means, to
your firm. Our definition of becoming customer centric, which has applied
to a number of firms that we have worked with, is: "Aligning the resources
of [your organization] to effectively respond to the ever-changing needs
of the customer, while building mutually profitable relationships."
Now, let's break that definition down into three parts so that we can
Aligning the resources of your organization
Effectively respond to the ever-changing needs of the
Building mutually profitable relationships
A common misconception that we have observed is that personnel of a firm
initially believe that becoming customer centric means that you must
perform as a "doormat" for the customer. Because of this all too frequent
misconception, we will discuss the 3rd item in the above list in this
Upon launching an initiative to become customer centric, it is not
uncommon to (initially) observe personnel making statements to the effect
of "if we are going to be customer centric, then if the customer requests
it, we simply must do it." The reality is there is a balance.
Our definition of "becoming customer centric" deliberately includes the
key phrase "building mutually profitable relationships" in order to
consider the impact on the firm and the customer relationship. It is
important to ask key questions such as: Can we profitably, and on a
repeatable basis, deliver on this customer's request? Is it supportable
for the long-term? Are we simply saying "yes" to appease the customer,
when in fact we know (deep down inside) that it will cause problems later?
Being customer centric requires that you seek to understand the customers'
needs, set expectations about what can/cannot be done, provide
alternatives if a customer's exact request cannot be accommodated and then
meet/exceed those expectations.
In summary, becoming customer centric does not mean that you become a
door-mat for the customer. The reality is that if your firm doesn't remain
profitable in its relationship with the customer, then you will cease to
exist. That wouldn't be very customer centric, would it?
In future editions we will break down the first 2 segments of the
definition of becoming customer centric, and subsequently share approaches
for facilitating this transformation.
Exploring Outsourcing: Implementation
Our exploration into
outsourcing has taken us from creating a request for proposal through
reaching an agreement. By this time, each party has learned a great deal
about the other and likely has engaged Project Management folks for one
reason or another along the way. The next step of the process,
Integration, will take the written terms of the agreement and turn them
into a working model. Below are a few examples of high-priority areas for
the Integration process.
Establishing a Hand-Off Date – as basic a decision as
this may seem, the hand-off date represents everything which has been
worked toward to date. As such, it needs to be realistic considering
Telecommunication and Data Communications – this is a
simple fundamental of Integration. Typical install timeframes for
telecommunication (and often data) are in the neighborhood of 45-60
days. Acceleration of these dates depends on a number of issues
including available facilities, credit rating and/or telecom field
Agent Hiring and subsequent training – without agents
there is no program. As you are likely aware, hiring can be a time
consuming task and needs to prioritized as it relates to the had off
Customer Relationship Management system – one way or
another, the details of your customer contacts need to be captured – it
is the extent of detail which needs clear definition. For the sake of
brevity, a CRM system's complexity is entirely program dependent and
will consume time/resources respectively.
Within the agreement there are specific metrics which the vendor will
perform against. Tracking the performance of the vendor against these
metrics is a key relationship management issue from launch forward.
Several of these measurements need to be reviewed on a monthly basis.
Other timeline related items also need to be tracked. Below are a few
examples of high level metrics and timeline items which need to be tracked
Service Level – a metric often tied to performance
penalties or incentives. This measurement may apply to inbound calls,
first touch resolution or a variety of other communication channels.
This metric requires a monthly review and a related deep dive if the
metric is dramatically overachieved (is the vendor over staffing and
hence driving the program cost up respectively?) or underachieved (what
is the issue?).
Hours of Coverage – unless a 7x24 hour program is
being deployed, a monthly review (or more frequently depending upon the
nature of your program) of contact volumes toward the start/end of the
coverage period and missed contact volume off hours is very important.
The opportunity to save program dollars exists if volume starts later
and ends earlier. Likewise, coverage hours may require expansion if a
significant number of contacts are missed during off hours.
Agreement Renewal – many agreements contain automatic
renewal statements if notification of intent to not renew is not
provided at least 90 days in advance. This very important timeline item
represents your chance to modify the program, including visiting
problematic issues or moving it to another vendor without penalty.
One aspect of any outsourcing relationship which can be easy to lose in
the shuffle is the fact that each party desires a positive outcome.
Vendors are skilled in the area of Integration and live a life of
reporting monthly performance to clients. For each party, signing an
agreement and moving to the Integration phase is one day closer to the day
when the investment and effort begins to pay off.
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.
+ Becoming Customer Centric
+ Exploring Outsourcing
+ Recommended Reading
+ Speaking Engagements
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View previous newsletters
Paul Greenberg's article
Creating Realistic Customer Expectations in CRM Magazine stresses the
importance of expectation management. While there are many dimensions to
customer service, positive customer satisfaction starts with setting
President Craig Bailey
will be a speaker at PDMA's (Product Development and Management
Association) 7th Annual
"Voice of the
Customer" conference on December 7-10, 2004, in San Francisco CA.
Presentation materials will be available for download from CCI's website
closer to the conference date.
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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