Perfecting Service Management

Issue #59

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Becoming Customer Centric - Interview the Customer
by Craig Bailey

We continue our series on leveraging the Voice of the Customer as a key element to becoming customer centric with a discussion of the next aspect within the step of "obtaining the pulse of the customer": Interview the Customer. This should not be confused with performing a customer satisfaction survey, which typically ranks customer sentiment on a scale (low to high satisfaction) against a set of pre-defined attributes. Customer interviews involve interactive dialog with the customer, starting with simple questions like:

  • What is working well in your relationship with our firm?
  • What is not working well in your relationship with our firm?
  • If you were in charge of my firm what would you do differently?

The responses received from the above will be as diverse as the customer base. It should be noted that these questions are merely a catalyst to generate conversation. When a customer provides a response, don't always take it at face value. If a customer indicates that "working with my account manager is a pleasure" ask "could you give me a specific example that makes you feel this way?" Likewise, if a customer indicates "I just don't receive the level of service I expect" ask "could you give me a specific example of when we let you down?" When obtaining the customer response to the question "what would you do differently?" ask for specifics on what they hope would result from this recommendation.

It is also important to determine from each customer interviewed the most important aspects of the relationship. To do so, ask questions like:

  • What are the top few items that mean the most in your relationship with our firm that by meeting or exceeding your expectations on these items would ensure a long-term relationship?
  • What are the top few items that if we don't get right would cause you to rethink your relationship with our firm?

While it would seem that the above two questions would generate a common response from the customer, the result is often a more comprehensive understanding of what is important to the customer.

Finally, interviewing the customer could occur within the context of an account management program (we will discuss later) or as a standalone customer pulsing program. However, it should not be confused or be considered redundant with a customer survey program. Customer surveys typically provide quantitative data while customer interviews typically provide qualitative data. Taken together, this information can be extremely valuable for understanding customer sentiment as part of an integrated VoC process.

In our next edition we will discuss the third approach to "obtaining the pulse of the customer" and in subsequent editions we will cover how to take appropriate and responsive action.

View previous articles in this series.

+ Becoming Customer Centric
+ Recommended Reading
+ Speaking Engagements


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Recommended Reading
This issue we recommend an article from CRM Magazine:Who Really Owns the CRM Initiative? by Barton Goldenberg. An issue plaguing CRM initiatives at many companies is ownership. While the latest and greatest technology is always nice, a system that doesn't meet users' needs is useless. A successful CRM initiative will incorporate the business needs with technological capability.

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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