Perfecting Service Management

Issue #57

Tuesday, November 8, 2004

Message from CCI President Craig Bailey

I invite you to join me at the upcoming 7th Annual Voice of the Customer Conference, December 7-9th in San Francisco. This event, a joint initiative between The Product Development & Management Association (PDMA) and The Institute for International Research (IIR), will provide guidance and lessons for gaining a clear and detailed understanding of customer wants and needs. I will be presenting on the topic, "Leveraging the Voice of the Customer to Maximize Business Results," where we will share practical approaches for assimilating feedback from all customer touch-points and learn how customer feedback is "most crucial" to remaining competitive in this dynamic marketplace.

As a special offer, please mention the registration priority code: SPKRM1639CB and receive a 15% discount off the standard conference fees. To register, please call 888.670.8200, email email@iirusa.com, or visit the website www.iirusa.com/voc.
 

Becoming Customer Centric - Obtain the Pulse of the Customer
by Craig Bailey

In this edition of the "Voice of the Customer" series, we will expand upon the topic of "obtaining the pulse of the customer" by covering some of the most appropriate ways to obtain customer input, perspective and feedback in support of the VoC program. The following tools can all be used to better understand the customer.

Survey the Customer includes Transactional Surveys (to measure customer satisfaction with their interactions with the company) and Relationship Surveys (to measure the health of the overall relationship).

Interview the Customer distinct from customer surveys, providing qualitative rather than quantitative data; could occur within the context of an Account Management program or a stand-alone Customer Pulsing program.

Obtain Input from Customer-Facing Personnel - involves active dialog with customer-facing personnel (service and sales/account management) about what they observe is working and not working as relates to the customer's experience; requires an environment of trust for providing constructive feedback, clear expectations with personnel about what will result, and patience for wading through anecdotes.

Observe Customer Actions and Behavior involves monitoring customer activities and transactions, online and through direct observation, to understand how easy it is for customers to do business with the firm and to identify opportunities to better meet customer needs.

Mystery Shopping involves role-playing the customer experience, to truly walk in the customer's shoes.

Each of the above items can be performed individually or in various combinations, depending on the unique needs and attributes of the firm and its customer base. Additionally, a firm must acknowledge that each of its customers has many faces. These faces include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • The end-user of the product or service - the personnel who most frequently interact with the firm on a transactional basis.
  • The business decision-maker - the person who holds budgetary responsibility for the costs incurred to obtain products/services from the firm.
  • The procurement function - the organization within the customer's firm that often has a primary goal of obtaining the best possible products and services at the lowest possible price.


As such, when measuring customer sentiment, it is critical to acknowledge the differences between each face of the customer as relates to the feedback received. That is, the feedback received should be taken in context with the role played within the customer's firm.

In subsequent editions of the newsletter, we will drill down into each of the above areas.

View previous articles in this series.
 

Data-Driven Operations - The DDO Framework
by Joseph Prosser and David Osborn
Senior Consultants, NOCManage

In the last article we described some of the challenges that we have seen in network operations over the years. These challenges can be broken down into three main categories: application-based, informational, and procedural. All of them stem from having to maintain multiple configurations across heterogeneous management systems. We also introduced the methodology we call Data Driven Operations (DDO) as a solution to these problems. In this article, we will go into detail on what DDO is and how it addresses the challenges described above.

DDO utilizes a centralized data model combined with application and validation gateways and automated workflow management. As we will describe, a feedback-based system is created that can evolve and continuously improve efficiency and effectiveness.

The centralized data model is typically stored on a relational database, such as Oracle or PostgreSQL. What sets this apart from an asset-tracking system is a specialized schema (group of tables & relationships) that maintains information about the devices and how they are connected. Another key aspect of this schema is that it should only store information that can either be verified automatically or is relied upon by a business process that would verify it. With an effective schema and reasonably accurate data, the foundation is laid, upon which reliable gateways and business processes can be built.

Business processes, within areas such as provisioning or engineering, are responsible for entry into the data-store. Because this information is automatically copied over to support applications, many errors in it are noticed quickly. Accountability is improved since the change is directly tied to one person's actions. Maximizing the reliance on this data may seem counterintuitive, but this minimizes the cost of bad data by minimizing the time to detection and correction.

Application gateways take the data and convert it into configuration for the various systems in use. These include network and performance management systems, trouble-ticketing systems, and DNS, among others. This ensures a consistent view of the network and allows for easy correlation of data across applications. Application gateways run on a periodic basis to synchronize data from the data-store to each application and are the first level of business process automation.

Although increased reliance detects many data errors, some critical pieces of information are not utilized until a fault occurs. This is the worst possible time. The validation gateway provides the final component necessary to complete the feedback loop. The validation gateway queries the network or other original data sources to determine if the information in the data store is accurate. This can be used as a validation checkpoint in business processes and to ensure that bad data doesn't propagate to applications in the first place.

Extreme automation and integration with business process can reduce operating expenses. DDO is a proven methodology to deploy this automation incrementally while minimizing cost. In our next article, we will discuss DDO deployment strategies.

View previous articles in this series.
 

Contents
+ Becoming Customer Centric
+ A Data-Driven Approach to IT Management
+ Recommended Reading
+ Speaking Engagements

 


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Recommended Reading
This week's recommended reading comes from Fast Company magazine. In her article Cuckoo for Customers, Alison Overholt presents a case-study of one web-hosting company's "fanatical" approach to customer service.

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.


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