Perfecting Service Management

Issue #72

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Customer Advocacy - What It's Not
by Kurt Jensen

In our last issue, we covered what Customer Advocacy is: A cross-functional role empowered to marshal organizational resources to resolve troublesome customer issues and identify root cause while balancing the financial realities and strategic goals of the company. In this issue, we will help to further clarify the role by adding details about what Customer Advocacy is not.

A Customer Doormat

Customer Advocacy is not a doormat for the customer to walk all over to get an automatic 'yes'. Instead, Customer Advocates must use their best judgment and knowledge about situations to determine the extent to which resources will be engaged. Further, as the centerpiece in situational communication, the Customer Advocate must tell it like it is. For instance, if the resolution time is unknown, then explain such while creating room (time) for the organization to respond. Customer Advocacy is not about agreeing with a customer's demands; it is about managing the customer's expectations against the reality of the situation.

The "Sky is Falling" Alert

Customer Advocacy is not a role that justifies running around the organization yelling "the sky is falling." Rather, it is a role where practical results of procedures are studied and lessons learned are used through a roll-up reporting process to drive continuous improvement. As a reminder, situations which land in the Customer Advocate's lap have gone through normal channels, but failed the customer. Therefore, prompt and direct attention to the matter is required while not exasperating the organization.

A Translator

Customer Advocacy is not a translator, "middle-man" or interpreter for the rest of the organization. Rather, Customer Advocates are facilitators who engage the appropriate subject matter experts into a resolution team, which will often require direct engagement with the customer. Simply put, once Customer Advocacy is involved, the time to read from manuals, scripts or leverage cursory knowledge has passed; it is time for the experts to be front and center. An important note: requiring non-customer facing personnel to work directly with customers requires teamwork, practice and live management - topics we will cover in subsequent editions of this newsletter.

Band Aid Role

Customer Advocacy is not just a band aid…IF accompanied with management attention and a framework for continuous improvement. Without these key items, the Customer Advocacy role may become a disruptor (constantly addressing the same issues) and will not return the benefits of increased customer satisfaction.

In the next several articles, we will address key aspects of an effective and responsive Customer Advocate function, inclusive of people (structure), process and technology.

In the meantime, if you would like to receive an in-depth overview of this topic and/or conduct a strategy discussion regarding your Customer Advocacy initiative (or concept), feel free to give us a call.

View previous articles in this series.

Southwest Airlines: Bending the Rules
by Craig Bailey

Southwest Airlines (SWA) continues to amaze me with its customer focus and flexibility, which is why it is my top pick for a model customer centric firm and the focus of this newsletter series. In the previous edition, I discussed how SWA reached out to me as an individual. This article will share 2 examples of SWA "bending the rules" for me, without the normal prodding or negotiations that are typically required to get a firm to deviate from standard operating procedure.

How many of you have wrestled with an airline to redeem your frequent flyer points? Black-out dates/times, seat availability, etc. Well, let me share with you the extent of the "wrestling" that is required with SWA.

I had been doing a lot of traveling and upon arriving home from a trip that represented project closure for a client, I decided it was time for a quick weekend get-away. The business trip just completed provided the final Rapid Rewards points that I needed to qualify for the 2nd free roundtrip ticket needed for my travel plans. At that time (2 years ago), the normal practice was for SWA to mail (via USPS) the award coupon within several days, letting me know that the roundtrip ticket was available for use. (This process has since been enhanced, in that they provide email notification). Well, it was a Wednesday, and I wanted to get away on Friday...

When I called SWA and explained the situation, namely that I had just completed a trip that provided the final Rapid Rewards points which qualified me to receive a roundtrip ticket anywhere/anytime in the U.S., and that I'd like to redeem that award for a trip in 2 days, the initial response was, "I'm sorry sir but we normally take a few business days to process completed itineraries and subsequently award roundtrip tickets." Without me asking, she said, "Hold one minute and let me see what I can do." In less than one minute, she was back on the line indicating that she "would be happy to overnight the coupon to me if I promised to send a check for the expedited shipment of the coupon." Of course, I was more than willing to oblige.

Another example, while not quite as impressive, but caused me to grin just the same...My favorite snack is peanuts, which also happens to be the primary food item provided on SWA flights. During the flight attendants' routine distribution of peanuts, I received my two packs - hardly enough to curb my craving. When the flight attendant was passing my seat on his way back to the front of the plane, I asked, "Could I have some more peanuts?" The response was a silent one. He simply placed the entire basket of peanuts on my lap, smiled, and walked off. You can bet I had my fill, and happily shared my bounty with those around me. Several minutes later, he returned to retrieve the basket and what was left of the peanut stash.

Remember, being customer centric doesn't require that you "give away the farm." The above examples are "little things" that reinforce, for me, that if SWA goes to a destination that I need to get to, they are my ONLY choice.

Also recall, we are NOT talking about a firm that has yet to demonstrate profitability. As shared in the previous edition, SWA has consistently demonstrated positive results that are enviable of firms in ANY industry!

In the next edition, I'll share more examples that demonstrate Southwest being a customer centric firm.

View previous articles in this series.

Contents

+ Customer Advocacy - What It's Not
+ Southwest Airlines: Bending the Rules
+ Recommended Reading

 


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Presentation Available
Visit CCI's website to download Positive Power Influence, presented by Craig Bailey at the Project Management Institute's (PMI) Mass Bay Chapter Career Development Day on May 14, 2005.

 

Recommended Reading

This issue's recommended reading comes from our own CCI President Craig Bailey. His article Unlocking The Value of Your Customer Satisfaction Surveys, reprinted in CRM Today, discusses ways to fully leverage customer survey results to improve customer and employee satisfaction and loyalty, and ultimately increase revenue and profit.

Reader-Input Incentive Program
Do you have opinions or input on any of our articles? Send us feedback you think might be useful to our readers. If we publish it, you'll get your pick of an item from the Customer Centricity Online Store.


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