Perfecting Service Management

Issue #76

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

In The News

Customer Centricity, Inc. President Craig Bailey has recently joined the Editorial Board of CRMToday magazine. Check out his first submission Managing the [Project] Customer Experience and stay tuned for more articles in the future.

Customer Advocacy Framework - Managing the Customer Experience
by Craig Bailey

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. The Customer Advocacy process framework includes:

Customer segmentation
Engagement process
Escalation process
Response planning, analysis and execution
Managing the customer experience through resolution
Internal management review

We concluded the last edition with a discussion of response planning and analysis, and the resulting by-product a situation summary. This edition will cover re-engaging the customer and managing the customer experience through resolution.

In preparation for the customer meeting, you will want to hold a "dry-run" with all participants from your firm (and necessary 3rd parties whom you rely upon to deliver the ultimate customer solution). During this rehearsal, you should walk through the meeting agenda and situation summary asking each participant to cover his/her part "as if" he/she were in front of the customer. You'll frequently identify items that require additional investigation, or phraseology that detracts from the message (which is "intended" to again create confidence in the eyes of the customer).

Depending on the nature and impact of the incident, you may want to bring senior management of your firm into the initial call or meeting to emphasize the level of attention the situation is receiving and demonstrate the level of commitment and importance being placed on getting things "back on track."

As you are recounting the sequence of events that caused the customer situation, be clear in sharing the contributing factors, some of which may be owned by the customer. You'll obviously need to use a high-degree of tact and diplomacy in doing so, but you MUST provide full disclosure to prevent the same situation from recurring.

One thing you might discover when investigating root-cause and contributing factors is that the client hasn't (yet) purchased a service or feature that you offer to mitigate the risk (directly or indirectly) of the customer's situation happening. If this is the case, share with the customer the benefit of purchasing the service or feature to prevent such situations from occurring again in the future. This can be a very delicate topic as a client may have had the expectation that it was covered in the original agreement, in which case expectations must be reset. One approach to take is to offer the service or feature for a free trial period, say 90 days, with the expectation that the customer will clearly observe the benefits and ultimately pay for the service on a go-forward basis. However, you must also make it clear that if the client has not committed to purchasing the service at the end of trial period, the service will be "turned off" and the incident under present review is likely to recur. Take this opportunity to define the ROI by asking the client details regarding the impact of the incident (on customer satisfaction, employee morale, company image, revenue, lost opportunity, etc.). Compare the impact with the investment required to retain the service and you have likely "made the sale."

You should also clearly establish criteria for closing out the incident and turning the customer back over to standard operating procedures (SOP). The "get well plan" may require a few days or a few months, but clearly setting expectations and criteria for success at the outset is critical.

Throughout the lifecycle of the escalated event, it is important to identify and reinforce the silver lining. That is, the progress being made, resources engaged, management awareness and additional value that you may be delivering within the overall context of the organization's response. In a nutshell, reinforce "what we are doing right" without making light of the incident that caused you to respond in such a manner.

Finally, once the criteria for success have been accomplished, you will want to confirm with the customer and agree to close out the incident. If there is disagreement, you will want to go back to the previously agreed to success criteria and determine which items are of concern. You may learn that a similar or somewhat related incident has occurred which places doubt in the mind of the customer that root-cause resolution has taken place. Clearly establish what is and what is not related to the original incident; if necessary, you may need to start the process again for a separate but similar incident. The goal here is to prevent "open-ended" customer advocacy engagements in such a way that requires your resources to remain "spun-up" when SOP will suffice for the customer (which is where you want to be).

We are only a couple of editions away from beginning our discussion on the proactive aspects of Customer Advocacy, enabling you to get into the heart and mind of your customer.

View previous articles in this series.


+ Customer Advocacy Framework - Managing the Customer Experience
+ Recommended Reading

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Recommended Reading

In his CRM Magazine article The Search For Growth Through Innovation, Lior Arussy profiles G.E.'s growth efforts. The important priniciple to recognize is that "innovation, growth, and customer centricity are interdependent."

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