Perfecting Service Management

Issue #55

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Becoming Customer Centric
by Craig Bailey

Becoming customer centric is a multi-faceted endeavor, as outlined in the previous two newsletter editions. In our continuing series on this subject, we will further expand on the topic of "aligning the resources of your firm."

We often hear clients say something to the effect of "if we can't work well with our own internal resources, how can we expect to work well with our external customers?" THAT is a key question with many implications. One way to look at this is to consider that EVERY person in an organization is both a customer of, and supplier to, someone else. Moreover, these relationships could be between personnel within your organization or relate to an external entity.

You have undoubtedly heard the proverb "treat others as you would like to be treated." This rings true in your endeavor to become customer centric. However, it is much more complex than reciting a proverb. One approach to internalizing what it means to be customer centric is to perform customer centric training for everyone in your firm. This is NOT your typical "customer service skills" training. It is all about how to work effectively with other people.

Key aspects of an effective customer centric training program include:

  • Performing a pre-training assessment that involves all levels of the organization, from executives to the front-line customer service personnel. In this assessment, it is important to learn what is working well (to reinforce) and identify opportunities for improvement. This includes capturing case study examples of customer scenarios, internal and external, that have been particularly emotional and/or difficult to deal with. Once genercized (removing names and details that would relate to a specific "incident"), these can serve as an effective tool to "workshop" in a safe (training) environment.
  • Providing multiple modules, allowing people a chance to receive a handful of new skills, and go back to their job to try them out. By doing so, personnel have a chance to try the new skills and where they realized unanticipated results they can discuss in the next training session for clarity. They would then learn the next set of skills and so on…
  • Limiting each training session to no more than 15 cross-functional personnel. By mixing it up, you will enjoy a rich training experience, in which case study examples can be explored from the various perspectives of the organization. A by-product is that personnel gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by other organizations. This can create empathy and more importantly generate new ideas for resolving common cross-functional challenges that impact your ability to effectively serve the customer.
  • Engaging participants with a mixture of exercises, including lecture, role plays and individual and group activities.
  • Focusing content on the following four topic areas, which we have found to be most effective:
    • Understanding people and styles of communication
    • Building rapport and communicating effectively
    • Managing difficult conversations with ease
    • Recognizing opportunities and capitalizing on them

EVERY person in the firm should attend this type of training, if you are truly committed to becoming customer centric.

The result: you will hear people talking in the halls about the new-found skills that have helped them in their professional and personal lives. Coupling this training with the other activities being suggested will be a major step in your journey to becoming a customer centric organization.

In summary, a key to becoming customer centric is ensuring that all personnel in your firm develop and maintain excellent interpersonal communications skills. After all, a customer is just another human being, not too unlike yourself…

View previous articles in this series.

Exploring Outsourcing: Managing the Relationship
by Kurt Jensen

We conclude our series on "Exploring Outsourcing" with a discussion of what you should be thinking about post-launch of an outsourcing arrangement. Once implementation has occurred and calls are flowing into the call center of your outsourcing partner, you need to consider how to manage the outsourcing relationship to extract the maximum amount of benefit. Of course, there is a learning period which will require a considerable amount of attention. However, as the program is fine-tuned, leveraging the information your outsourcer gathers helps you maximize the relationship. Below are examples of areas that require engaged management and can, in turn, provide opportunities to enhance your outsourced program.

Ongoing Attention

  • Service Level Commitments – hopefully your contract captured a significant amount of service level commitments. These important check points are key performance metrics and require dedicated attention each month.
  • New Product Introductions – new product introductions produce new types of calls and related situations. Much like the original roll out, you are going to need to work very closely with your outsourcing partner to ensure successful launch of each new product.
  • Agent Quality – calibration between you and the outsourcer regarding agent quality can take place as frequently as required. As personnel move through your center, maintaining quality is an important way to promote consistent service delivery.
  • Forecasting – your outsourcing partner will require a decent forecast of anticipated volume. This, in effect, means the Program Manager will need to be plugged into anything which may increase or decrease contact volume.

Enhancement Opportunities

  • Hours of Operation – reviewing inbound arrival patterns will help you decide if you have the right coverage or you need to adjust your hours of operation. For example, if you are missing calls prior to opening you may need to add an hour (increase in cost). In contrast, if calls start an hour later than when staff is available, you may want to consider reducing coverage (cost reduction).
  • Call Types – reviewing the types of contacts (the 'why' of a customer contact) provides a wealth of opportunity! Some specific examples are:
    • First Touch Resolution – understanding why customers call is the first step in developing a standardized response and provides the agent the opportunity to resolve the inquiry at first touch.
    • Standardized Response – defining standardized responses help to reduce Average Call Handling time (a significant cost driver).
    • Volume Reduction – quantifying the types of contacts provides priority as to what should be addressed proactively (e.g. education) or with self-help options.
    • Product Enhancements – consistent questions or complaints can be important clues regarding adjusting or improving a product.

One often overlooked opportunity is almost too simple to mention: ask your outsource partner for their opinion! Within every Contact Center, there are always one or more team members with fantastic ideas to enhance service delivery. You have likely selected an outsourcer who provides incentives for ideas to enhance service delivery for your program – leverage this opportunity to the fullest extent!

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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Recommended Reading
This week's recommended reading, CRM Magazine article Do You Know What Your Customers Are Really Thinking? by Terri Schepps, stresses the importance of active customer follow-up, rather than just passive customer analysis, to truly understand your customers' needs. You must reach out to your customers to know what they are thinking.

Speaking Engagements
CCI 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 possible.

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