Customer Centricity Seminar
Centricity Founder and President Craig Bailey for a seminar in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia, 17-18 October 2005. The seminar covers both strategic
and tactical approaches for a company to become customer centric. At a
strategic level, we will clearly outline a road-map for creating a
customer centric organization. At a tactical level, we will cover
practical approaches to enable customer service representatives to deliver
top-notch service. Check out the
online brochure to learn more.
Get 30% off the seminar fee when you mention that
you heard about this via the Customer Centricity newsletter!
Customer Advocacy - Ensuring Mutual Understanding
As we discussed in
previous edition, the proactive Customer Advocate becomes successful
by getting into the heart and mind of the customer. A strong Customer
Advocate must therefore possess tools and skills to maximize the value of
customer interactions at all levels of customer engagement. In this issue,
we will begin looking at "individual transactions," focusing specifically
on their importance in achieving mutual understanding.
We refer to "individual interactions" as those seemingly routine, minor
and stand-alone interactions with our customers, such as a phone call,
voice mail message, email, or letter, for which we simply owe a response.
The inquiry could relate to a question, problem, etc. that can be
immediately responded to and/or resolved. And, our response closes out the
The brutal reality is that too often customer relationships completely
unravel because of botched individual interactions. Why? Because two
principles are not adhered to:
Ensure mutual understanding during each customer
Recognize that a bigger picture exists (everything is
related, nothing is stand alone)
Just to warn you, what follows may be an uncomfortable set of questions.
The first question: Who is responsible for ensuring that the other person
understands what you are saying? The answer: You are! And, the second
question: Who is responsible for ensuring that you understand what the
other person is communicating? The answer: You are!
You might say "That seems unfair. Why am I responsible for the success of
the communication in both cases and the other person is not?" I'm writing
this assuming that you are (or want to be) a professional. If you want to
be perceived as an exceptionally talented person, realize that you are
responsible for ensuring mutual understanding within all communications
that you participate, whether you are the transmitter or receiver of
How do you ensure that mutual understanding exists during each interaction
you are involved in? Through effective use of some basic interpersonal
When you need to ensure the receiver of your communication understands
When you must be absolutely sure that the other person "understands" what
you are communicating, ask that person to repeat back their understanding.
For example, you might say something to the effect of: "Sue, I know we
just talked about a lot of things. I just want to make sure we are on the
same page about what we just discussed. Could you repeat back to me your
understanding [of the situation]?"
Here is an example that many of us can relate to. The scene: Your teenager
is playing XBOX. You need him or her to do a few chores and finish
homework. You ask "Could you clean your room, take out the garbage and
finish your homework before you go out with your friends?" The response
you receive is a simple "o.k." An hour later, when friends are at the
door, what has been accomplished? Nothing. When you indicate that your
child cannot go out with friends because chores and homework aren't
complete, you hear "what are you talking about?" as your child looks at
you like you have two heads.
While we'd all like to assume that adults are more advanced in their
listening skills, we too often observe that because of distractions,
multiple priorities or incomplete information provided by us, that we meet
with the same end: ineffective communications resulting in a less than
To avoid this, recognize the reality that until the receiver of
information can repeat back in his/her own words what he/she has heard, to
your satisfaction, you have not been heard. In the case of your teenager,
it will likely mean you need to stand in front of the TV (blocking the
game), restate what you asked to be done and have him or her repeat back
what you said. Then, and only then, will the XBOX go off and chores begin.
When you need to ensure you understand
When you need to ensure your understanding of what someone is
communicating to you, you too can use the technique outlined above, of
repeating back in your own words your understanding of what the other
person said. However, doing so prematurely may result in your sharing an
incomplete (even) shallow understanding. As such, you are first encouraged
to clarify what the person has said by seeking additional information
about the "what and why." How often has someone (a customer or otherwise)
told you what they wanted, which was something you could not or were not
prepared to deliver on as it wasn't an option or capability available to
you. However, once you asked a few probing questions about the "why" you
learned that what was needed was something altogether different. And, the
true need was something that you COULD deliver on. Once you have asked the
appropriate set of questions to ensure your understanding of the "what and
why," you can then make your attempt at repeating back what your
understanding of the situation is.
An example, keeping with the teenager theme...Has your teenager ever
indicated to you: "I need some money." Or, "I need $15." If you are like
me, your first reaction might be to say "no" or "what did you do with last
week's allowance" or "I'll pay you $15 for taking care of the following
(larger than average) chore." Your child's response may be something like
"never mind." However, with further probing, you learn that the reason he
or she needs $15 is to get a haircut for school pictures which are
scheduled for tomorrow. Recognizing that your child's hair is a bit
straggly, you are MORE than happy to provide the necessary funding so that
your child's hair looks well-kempt for school pictures.
In summary, when you need to ensure your understanding of what someone is
communicating so that you can act or make a decision, and/or your first
reaction is to reject, ignore or disagree with what is being said, first
clarify by seeking additional information about the what and why.
I hope you observe that effective interpersonal communications skills are
applicable in every aspect of your personal and professional life. That
is, they work far beyond customer interactions.
In the next edition we will discuss how to ensure that the bigger
(relationship) picture is acknowledged within each individual customer
If your organization would benefit from receiving a comprehensive seminar
on the practical approaches for instituting the Customer Advocacy model,
give us a call. The tools and techniques shared can be implemented
immediately and create long-lasting positive results.
View previous articles in this series.
Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down
This column is
devoted to memorable customer experiences, the good, the bad, and the
ugly. This issue brings another less than desirable experience resulting
in a customer defection:
We have stopped going to a nearby bagel store/restaurant as the result
of service we find unacceptable. On two separate occasions, the cashier
rang up our order incorrectly, and both times, the error was discovered
while reviewing the receipt after we had paid. And both times, the cashier
could do NOTHING to correct the error...couldn't credit our credit card,
couldn't refund us cash. To their credit, the first time, the manager gave
us his card authorizing a future purchase of three dozen bagels, but the
second time they offered nothing. So we've had it...
Editor's note: When a system
prevents front-line employees from serving customers properly, not only
does it need to be fixed, but all front-line employees need to be
empowered and trained to overcome the system constraints and meet the
needs of the customers.
Have your own customer service experience to share?
+ Customer Advocacy - Ensuring Mutual Understanding
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Recommended Reading
+ Book Recommendation
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magazine has published the second half of
Managing the [Project] Customer Experience by our own Craig Bailey.
Craig recently joined the editorial board of CRM Today and will be
making regular submissions to the magazine, so stay tuned for future
articles of interest.
from Craig Bailey
Is your company
passionate (about the customer) and realizing the benefits (profitability)
of being so? If not, a must read is
Passionate and Profitable by Lior Arussy. After having dinner with
Mr. Arussy recently, I found him to be just as passionate and "edgy" about
the customer as his book would suggest! Some of the key topics covered
Who are we: Customer
pleasers or efficiency crunchers?
What is the role of
the customer in our existence?
What customers do we
What kind of
relationships do we seek?
How do we avoid the
silo-based customer trap?
Do we employ
functional robots or passionate evangelists?
and feedback, do we really care?
What do our
measurements say about us?
How long do we milk
gets even better! The book is ranked as a "five-star" read and is
presently on sale at a reduced price at
Do you have a
topic you would like to see covered in our newsletter?
Contact us with your suggestions.
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
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