Customer Advocacy Framework - Escalation and Response
Continuing on our Customer Advocacy journey, this edition provides
additional insight regarding the process framework to establish a highly
responsive approach to ensure that escalated customer issues are attended
to, and resolved, in a timely and effective manner. As indicated in the
prior edition, the process framework includes:
Response planning, analysis and execution
Managing the customer experience through resolution
Internal management review
This edition will cover the escalation process and response planning,
analysis and execution aspects of the Customer Advocacy framework.
Once engaged, the Customer Advocate will need to reach out to the
appropriate subject matter experts to assist in responding to the customer
situation. This requires that a "who to call list" is pre-established,
with a comprehensive listing of:
Each subject matter or support area (e.g., sales,
engineering, product management, legal, technical support, finance,
professional services, etc.) that the Customer Advocate will depend upon
Name of the primary point of contact, backup, manager,
director, vice president for each area
24x7 contact information for each person in the
This will be one of the most valuable assets that a customer advocate will
have to enable prompt engagement of necessary resources.
With any process, it is expected that exceptions will occur. Gracefully
handling exceptions is key to minimizing impact to the customer and the
business. As relates to the Customer Advocacy framework, it may become
important to escalate a particular customer issue for a number of reasons,
Promoting management awareness of a particular
customer or product situation that warrants attention, either based upon
best judgment of the Customer Advocate, or a pre-established escalation
request for that particular customer or product.
Primary point of contact in a support organization is
unresponsive to engagement requests from the customer advocate. Person
could be out of cell range, indisposed, or otherwise unavailable.
For real-time issues needing immediate attention and support from a
particular subject matter (or support) area, the Customer Advocate will
attempt contact with the first designated person on the "who to call list"
for that area. Should that person not respond within 15 (+/-) minutes, the
Customer Advocate will then attempt contact with the next person on the
list for that area, and so on up to and including (if necessary) the VP.
Taking this approach ensures that all subject matter areas/support
organizations are fully aligned to the Customer Advocate model. Rest
assured that the VP will not tolerate calls at 2AM resulting from his/her
staff being unresponsive to customer issues. Additionally, by "sharing the
pain" the subject matter areas/support organizations will be increasingly
motivated to resolve the root-cause of issues requiring escalation.
Response planning, analysis and execution
Now that the Customer Advocate has successfully engaged subject matter
experts necessary to address the situation, the next step is to "get all
the liars in the same room" (or on a con-call). The objective here is to
clarify the situation, determine what the problem is (based upon
information gathered thus far), determine how we got here (in a
non-accusatory way), what the options are and a potential course of
action. This may require that individuals pull performance reports, a
history of customer inquiries and problem reports, invoices, contracts,
etc., to create a chronology of the timeline leading up to the point of
customer dissatisfaction. The output of this step is a first draft
Situation Summary, which includes:
Executive summary - Top-level summary of the situation
Chronology - Timeline of events
Root-cause(s) - Item(s) identified (thus far) that are
foundational to the issue at hand
Contributing factors - Related factors that, while not
root-cause, may have exasperated the situation and/or contributed to the
"swirl" factor, swirl being defined as when a number of people are
(un-necessarily) "spun up" and emotionally charged over a situation
Action-plan and recommendations
After a first
pass has been done at this, the next step is to re-engage with the
customer, in order to effectively manage the customer's experience through
resolution. This topic will be covered in the next edition.
If your organization is in immediate need of a Customer Advocacy
framework, and you can't wait the several weeks for completion of this
newsletter series, give us a call. We would be happy to provide a
walkthrough of the complete customer advocacy framework and if necessary,
assist you in the implementation of a customized framework for your
View previous articles in this series.
Out-Operates the Competition
completes our series highlighting Southwest Airlines, a firm that
demonstrates the characteristics of being customer centric and reaps the
benefits of doing so. To review prior articles on this topic,
click here. As promised, we will close the topic by sharing concrete
evidence as to why another well-known airline is in the toilet, learned
first hand while traveling recently to a city that SWA doesn't (presently)
serve. Names will be omitted to protect the guilty...
I recently had the opportunity to travel to a city not presently served by
Southwest Airlines. After evaluating all possible options for flying SWA
(attempting arrivals at destination airports in the vicinity) I
reluctantly decided I'd have to fly another airline. Luckily I had some
frequent flyer points on this other airline that would enable me to get
one of my tickets for free. And, here we go...
As always, when booking travel arrangements, my first step is to (attempt
to) leverage an airline's web-site. However, after attempting to get 2
seats on a non-stop flight from my departure to destination city with no
luck, it became clear I would have to call the airline directly. Upon
calling, I learned that my frequent flyer points could only be redeemed
for a specific set of (undesirable) flights (early / late and with
connections). After spending 20 minutes on the phone we finally locked in
our flight arrangements. Oh, and the airline had to charge me an extra $5
because I called in rather than use their online booking - hardly enough
revenue to account for the time that the agent spent on the phone with me
wrestling with complex frequent flyer redemption rules. The airline just
took its first "hit" on cost...
As can happen with ANY airline, we had a flight delay due to weather, at
our departure city. Upon arriving VERY late at the connecting airport, my
first step was to proceed to the monitors to determine the status of my
connection, which was scheduled to depart over 2 hours earlier. Because
the connecting flight wasn't displayed, my natural assumption was that it
had departed. After scanning the airport and seeing no "manned" stations
to help me (being late at night), I called the airline to get a new
connection to my destination. Speaking with the agent, I learned that the
flight had NOT left. It too was delayed and was scheduled to depart in 30
minutes. Well, that was GREAT for me. The agent indicated that someone
must not have updated the system. And, because that flight's scheduled
time had passed, it was automatically removed from the monitor. How dumb
is this? The airline just took its second "hit" on cost, as they received
a totally unnecessary phone call from me.
We finally arrived at our destination airport. Things were looking up now!
The pilot then welcomes us to the city by explaining "we will be a few
more minutes before we can get you unloaded because there is a plane
parked at our gate. We need to get it moved and we'll then get you on your
way." We then sat there for over 15 minutes burning fuel waiting for "that
same airline's" plane to be moved. How much does fuel cost these days? The
airline just took another "hit" on cost. But, there is more...We had a
When available, I leverage automated communication features offered by
airlines to keep me up to date on flight status. Prior to heading to the
airport for our return flight, I received a courtesy message indicating
that our flight would be delayed, causing us to miss our connection. The
message politely encouraged me to call-in to make alternative
arrangements. Upon doing so, I learned that the flight "wasn't" delayed
and that we would make the connection just fine. The airline just took
another unnecessary call from me (another hit on cost).
I wonder if the federal government is going to hold this airline
accountable to improving its operating practices before providing ANY
relief in their bankruptcy protection proceedings. Otherwise, the airline
ought to just die and get it over with. They do NOT get it.
In closing, any firm must deal with inevitabilities (delays due to
weather, etc.) and we as customers "get this." However, when dumb things
happen that waste our time (as customers) and obviously waste the
resources of a company (fighting for its very survival), it becomes clear
that the firm needs to get its head out of its assets and focus on the
How is Southwest Airlines able to thrive in such a battered industry? They
out-operate their competition by focusing on the customer.
View previous articles in this series.
+ Customer Advocacy Framework - Escalation and
+ Southwest Airlines: Out-Operates the Competition
+ Recommended Reading
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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.
In his CRM
When It Comes to Customer Relationship Management, It's The "Why" That
Matters, Dr. Paul Squires presents 5 simple, yet critical, steps for
creating an online survey. Equally important, according to Dr. Squires, is
getting beyond the survey tools and CRM technology to understand the
why - "why your customers do business with you and why
they choose to be loyal."
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