Perfecting Service Management

Issue #80

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Embarking on the Journey to Customer Centricity

Check out the cover story of the latest edition of Sbusiness magazine (published by The Association for Services Management International)! CCI President Craig Bailey offers his insight on Embarking on the Journey to Customer Centricity - a subject already familiar to our faithful newsletter readers!

Customer Advocacy - A Bigger Picture Exists
by Craig Bailey

As we discussed in our previous edition, customer relationships too often unravel because of botched individual interactions. While individual interactions might seem minor and fairly routine, they should never be viewed in isolation, but rather as part of a bigger picture.

Have you ever seen an email chain similar to this?

Customer (end-user): Last week I called you about the device not working. You sent me a replacement that also doesn't work.

Product Company (Customer Support Representative): Our policy is to do a quality check before we ship. The device worked prior to shipping. Are you sure you are using it properly?

Customer: Yes, I know how to use the device. I've been using it for years now. Can you please resolve this matter?

Product Company: Our policy upon receiving faulty items from customers is that we do a test to confirm the item is not working. I just reviewed the results of the test on your returned device and we found it to be working. As such, I'd like to suggest you take one of our training courses. Your relationship with us enables you to receive a 15% discount on the $2,000 class. Would you like me to schedule you for the next one?

Customer: I've had it with you people. You keep trying to sell me stuff I don't need while not resolving my issues. We need to meet with my manager.
(cc: Decision Maker.)

Here, a typical customer service scenario unfolds through a set of interactions that causes the relationship to unravel to the point where a "get your suit on meeting" is required between the customer (end-user and decision-maker) and the product provider. What a waste of time and energy. Not to mention customer dissatisfaction.

First, email can be an effective communications tool, but it has its limitations. In our example, the most important suggestion would be that the Customer Service Representative should have picked up the phone and called the customer after receiving that first email. Something is just not right. Continuing this dialog in email not only served to elongate resolution (reply/response times) but caused each party to lose context (train of thought) which further exasperated the situation.

You might ask: "Why wouldn't I continue the dialog in email, the customer started it that way?" To which, I respond with "are you a professional or an amateur?" The customer needs your help. They have gone (seemingly) multiple days with a faulty product and it is YOUR responsibility to get them "back in business." It requires you to further diagnose the situation, which simply is not as effective in email. So, take charge and pick up the phone.

As a Customer Service Manager or Supervisor, you may have assigned certain CSRs to email duty today. The CSRs are using email to respond to/process as many inquiries as they can to make their numbers. They may think that picking up the phone is not part of email duty and/or it will make them miss their numbers. Managers / supervisors - you are encouraged to clarify this (including a balanced set of metrics) to avoid a situation similar to our example.

Second, when discussing matters with customers, don't talk about policy (quality check) - they don't care. In the above example, the device doesn't work. All the customer cares about is a working product (or service).

Third, asking a long-time customer if he is using the product correctly adds insult to injury. Instead, walk-through the customer's use of the product (step by step) to identify clearly what is going on, and when.

Finally, while up-selling and cross-selling are certainly important goals for Customer Service organizations, WAIT until you have fully diagnosed a (problem) situation and exhausted every possible alternative to solve the customer's issue.

Getting into the hearts and minds of your customers requires moving beyond help scripts and policy it means truly understanding what matters to them and helping them achieve their goals. In the next edition we will cover practical techniques and considerations to ensure that when written communications are appropriate (email and otherwise), they are effective and also consider the bigger picture.

If you feel that your organization may benefit from receiving a comprehensive seminar on the practical approaches for instituting the Customer Advocacy model, give us a call. We would be happy to discuss this with you and determine if we can help.

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 provides a satisfied customer experience:

No sooner had I signed up for a savings account with ING Direct when I misplaced my PIN, which is required for online registration. My call to Customer Service was promptly answered with the live greeting: "How can I help you save?" exactly what I wanted to hear.

I explained I had lost my PIN, and after asking a few questions for authentication purposes, the CSR indicated that another PIN would be sent to me via postal mail, and we ended the call. A few minutes later I found my PIN. When I tried to use it to register online, it didn't work, presumably because it had been reset per my previous call.

So, I called in (somewhat embarrassed) and again the call was promptly answered with the upbeat greeting "How can I help you save?" I explained that my PIN wasn't working during online registration. The rep asked me a few questions to authenticate me, then commented "I see that you've already talked to us today about this situation." I said, "yes" and the response was "I am sorry that I put you through all that [authentication] nonsense." The rep confirmed my suspicion that because my prior call indicated I had misplaced my PIN, that it was reset, and the new one was on its way.

All in all, a very positive experience. I had made the mistake of misplacing my PIN and ING Direct did what they had to do to get me "online" without making me feel stupid. Although their model promotes leveraging the Internet to lower their costs (and thus provide higher interest rates to customers), they made it easy for me to get help "offline" when I couldn't get online an effective balance for serving the customer.

Editor's note: Aside from the clear benefit of providing the right balance of online/offline customer support, this example highlights several positive Customer Service points:

  • The company's Customer Support Representatives (CSRs) know why they are there: to help ING Direct customers "save more." They reinforce this when answering each call.
  • The CSRs demonstrate they understand their customers. They probably have to authenticate EVERY caller regarding PIN issues. However, the comment made by the second CSR was apologetic and even a bit self-deprecating with the statement "I'm sorry I had to put you through all that nonsense" acknowledging what was likely an annoyance for the customer having to again go through the authentication exercise. By apologizing for this likely customer annoyance, the caller's feelings were "proactively" addressed, putting the caller at ease.
  • With comprehensive, real-time access to customer information, CSRs know the situation, without the customer needing to re-explain it. This keeps interactions quicker, and not a waste of the customer's (or the CSR's) time.

Have your own customer service experience to share? Email us.

View previous Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down articles.


+ Customer Advocacy - A Bigger Picture Exists
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Book Recommendation

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Book Recommendation
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 include:

  • Who are we: Customer pleasers or efficiency crunchers?

  • What is the role of the customer in our existence?

  • What customers do we neglect?

  • What kind of relationships do we seek?

  • How do we avoid the silo-based customer trap?

  • Do we employ functional robots or passionate evangelists?

  • Post-sales dialogue and feedback, do we really care?

  • What do our measurements say about us?

  • How long do we milk our products?

It gets even better! The book is ranked as a "five-star" read and is presently on sale at a reduced price at!

A Message from Craig Bailey:
Support Hunger Relief
Hunger is an issue that continues to be very important to me and I have decided to get involved! For the 3rd year in a row I am walking in the CROP WALK and I need your help. CROP WALK is sponsored by Church World Services (CWS), which has received a ranking of "Excellent" from the American Institute of Philanthopy.

Please consider making a donation to my efforts. Your donation supports programs that work to solve this world-wide challenge, including responding to relief efforts associated with such devastating events as Hurricane Katrina.

You can help by making a donation via my personal donation page where you can make a secure online credit card donation. If you would prefer to make an "offline" donation, let me know.

Thank you for your support in helping to solve hunger.

Support Craig and CWS

About Customer Centricity, Inc.
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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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