Embarking on the Journey to
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!
addition, the people who bring you Sbusiness magazine present the
Association for Service Management International
World Conference this week in Nashville, TN.
and many other service management professionals will convene October 10-12
at an event that promises to be the world's largest gathering of
executives and managers in customer service and support to connect and
share real-life situations, experiences, best practices, case studies, and
innovations in the service industry. Join them in Nashville to gain
knowledge first-hand that you can take back and put to use immediately in
Customer Advocacy - The Written Word
Continuing on the
topic of developing a culture of Customer Advocacy, this article provides
approaches to ensure individual interactions that occur in written form
are effective and support, rather than detract from, the overall customer
relationship. While we provide useful advice for all written
communications, special emphasis is placed on email. Email is a wonderful
tool, but how often have we hit the send button only to wish seconds later
that we could retract the message, either to delete or revise prior to
sending. What follows are practical strategies to consider as you craft
that next message.
The key points we will cover include:
Ensure your communication stands alone
Consider the audience
Read it "as if" you were the recipient
Acknowledge the "bigger picture"
Special handling procedures when emotionally charged
communication stands alone
The first step in preparing your written communication is to recognize
that it must "stand alone." This is important for two reasons:
There is no telling who may read your note beyond the
People are busy and have likely lost context with
regards to prior communications on the topic.
such, it is critically important to ensure that complete context of the
topic is provided. You can do this by providing an opening statement or
paragraph (depending on complexity) that summarizes the topic, what has
been previously discussed and/or agreed to, and the purpose of this
Just as important is to provide a closing statement or paragraph with
regards to next steps or your expectations with regards to the recipient's
response (action to be taken, confirmation of receipt, etc.). Finally,
depending on the nature and criticality of the situation, you will want to
indicate something to the effect of "if I don't hear back from you within
[the appropriate number of hours or days] I will follow-up with you."
Consider the audience
Think about the phrase "one size does not fit all" when drafting your
communication. For instance, are you addressing your customer's management
level, engineer or administrative contact? Following are brief strategies
for addressing each:
Management - Ensure you relate the topic to the
business challenge or opportunity, value expected or delivered,
performance, goals, objectives and the "numbers." Be focused, get to the
point and be as brief as possible. If you are requesting buy-in or a
decision, clarify the options, business (not technical) benefits,
drawbacks, your recommendation and why.
Engineer (including IT or technical individuals) - In
addition to sharing the above information (as appropriate), you will
want to provide relevant technical details to "bolster" your
communication in support of continued dialog in which you may be seeking
to collaborate on a solution or obtain buy-in or advice.
Administrative (including customer's front
line/technical contacts) - Answer the recipient's (unasked) question:
"What does this mean to me / my job?" Additionally, sharing how you
arrived at decisions, conclusions and/or recommendations is helpful to
maintain buy-in and overall support of the relationship. If you are
asking someone to do something new or different, it is important to
share details of the "how to." In fact, you are encouraged to offer the
recipient the option of contacting you via phone to help with a
walk-through of the process.
The above advice is very high-level and some communications may need to
target an audience made up of multiple profiles. The main point is to
consider the unique perspective(s) of your audience and address the needs
of each recipient. Finally, while you may be the expert on your business
or products, customers do not enjoy being told what to do or communicated
to in a way that makes them feel inferior.
Read it "as if" you were the recipient(s)
Prior to sending your communication, you are encouraged to read it "as if"
you were the recipient. This can be as simple as "rebooting" your brain
and putting on the hat of your recipient. Alternatively, it may be
appropriate for you to walk away from the computer or work on something
else for a few moments. Upon your return you will want to review the
communication ensuring no assumptions were made with regards to the
recipient's level of understanding of the topic and overall context that
it is being presented in. And, ask yourself: "If I were the recipient, do
I get it and how would I feel about this?"
As you know, "it is not only what you say but how you say it." You will be
surprised at how often you'll look back at your written communications
through the lens of the recipient only to discover that your intent wasn't
effectively communicated and/or the message does not stand alone as the
information was shared "out of context." This can lead to a simple
misunderstanding resulting in time wasted or the complete unraveling of a
Acknowledge the "bigger picture"
During any communication with the customer, especially in written form,
consider the reality that it is part of a bigger (relationship) picture.
You might ask yourself the following questions:
How does this communication relate to, impact
(positively or negatively), support and/or evolve the relationship?
Do I have an opportunity to demonstrate or deliver
value beyond the "immediate" need or expectation?
For example, your customer may have asked you a question. You are
preparing a brief and concise response. You have heard the proverb "Give a
man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a
lifetime." You are about to give the customer a fish. Is there a way,
instead, that you can teach customers to fish, so that they might answer
similar questions for themselves in the future? If so, spend the extra few
minutes to do so. You will have exceeded their expectations by making them
smarter and more self-sufficient AND you will save your company time and
money in the future.
No communication is an isolated incident. It ALL relates. And, each is an
opportunity to reinforce or detract from the relationship. Ensure that you
acknowledge that this "bigger picture" exists.
Special handling procedures when emotionally charged
Have you ever drafted a letter or email while emotionally charged, sent
it, and very shortly thereafter wished you could retract it? Have you even
laid awake at night thinking about the impact it may have? If you are
honest with yourself, you have probably done this. Following are 4 simple
steps you can take to ensure that your communications are not clouded by
emotion which may impact your (otherwise) good judgment, common courtesy
Let it sit (24 hours, if possible)
Revise and send, or...delete it and forget about it...
In summary, this
article shares practical (if not simple) strategies to ensure that your
written communications effectively support the overall customer
relationship. Consider them well, or expect to spend (waste) time
clarifying prior communications, recovering from errors resulting from
miscommunications and mending broken relationships.
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 less than satisfactory customer experience:
I recently took my car into the dealership to have them investigate a
thumping sound that occurred while turning sharply at very slow speeds. I
normally take my cars into the local garage, but this seemed to be more
specialized and I thought the dealer would be able to fix the problem.
Since the car was due for a 150,000 mile checkup, I authorized that
service as well.
I made arrangements to drop off the car and juggle schedules with the
remaining car. The next day, the front desk manager called to inform me
that the 150,000 checkup revealed that I would need new brakes (at $700
for each of the four brakes -- $2800!) and a new fog light ($200!!).
OUTRAGEOUS!!! The front desk manager was the consummate customer service
professional – courteous, empathetic, understanding. Yet, due to the cost,
I declined the services. Later that day, I was notified that that the car
was ready and cost $1200 for new shocks/struts to take care of the
thumping problem and $200 for the checkup (which amounted to an oil
When I picked up the car, there was no difference in the thumping sound –
it was still there. I called the front desk manager who was very eager to
help me out; he told me to bring the car back the next morning to take the
service manager out on a road test. The front desk manager was very
apologetic yet professional. The next day during the road test, the
service manager confirmed that the struts and shocks weren't causing the
noise; the part needed was a propeller shaft – something that would take
an additional $1600 to fix. DOUBLE OUCH!!! After negotiating with the
front desk manager, I whittled the price down to $500.
With the new propeller shaft, the thumping problem was finally taken care
of and the front desk manager displayed all of the skills of a highly
trained and capable customer service professional. Yet, I will never go
back to that dealership because I feel taken advantage of by the
outrageous fees of the back end service department. My feelings of price
gouging were confirmed when my local garage charged me $40 for the fog
light and $1020 for the brakes.
Editor's note: In his submission to
us, this customer hit the nail on the head: great front-end customer
service doesn't compensate for poor back end service. The entire
company must be aligned to the needs of the customer…that is the essence
of being customer centric. For more information on how to become customer
centric, check out the Sbusiness cover story
Embarking on the Journey to Customer Centricity, written by CCI
President Craig Bailey.
Have your own customer service experience to share?
View previous Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down articles.
+ Customer Advocacy - The Written Word
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Book Recommendation
If you have received this newsletter from a friend
and would like to subscribe:
here to subscribe
View previous newsletters
In her CRM
Striking the Right Balance, Andrea Ayers discusses the importance of a
holistic approach to customer service, where both the bottom line and
customer satisfaction are considered. Neither should be over-stressed at
the expense of the other. As she writes: Losing customers because of a
poorly thought-out plan can be much more costly than maintaining contact
centers in markets with higher labor rates.
A Message from Craig
Support Hunger Relief
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
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
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
Thank you for your support in helping to solve hunger.
Support Craig and CWS
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
See What Our Customers Say