Perfecting Service Management

Issue #82

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Award-Winning Article:
Embarking on the Journey to Customer Centricity

CCI President Craig Bailey has been selected as the winner of AFSMI's Writer's Award in the category of Consultants and Professional Writers, for his recent Sbusiness magazine article Embarking on the Journey to Customer Centricity. This annual award specifically recognizes Consultants and Professional Writers for providing readers with the broad perspective of someone who has studied the industry objectively.

Craig Bailey received his award October 11th at the Association for Service Management International World Conference in Nashville, TN. The conference promised 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.

For those who haven't yet read the award-winning article, it is available for download from the CCI website.

Customer Advocacy - Time is Money...and Your Reputation
by Craig Bailey

We continue our series on customer advocacy, covering practical skills and techniques to enable you to effectively manage your customer interactions and relationships. This edition is focused on how to ensure that you do what you said you would do.

You have heard the phrase "time is money." While certainly true, how you manage your time is also key to your reputation with your peers, boss, subordinates, and more importantly, your customer.

There is another proverb: "don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." Because we are all under significant time constraints, we must acknowledge the corollary to this proverb, which is: "push off until tomorrow what is not important today."

I like to say that ANYTHING is possible with enough time and money. The problem is, we are limited in both. So, how do you ensure that you accomplish the important activities (in your business and personal life)? It is ALL a matter of priority.

The key elements of time management involve the following:
- Create a list
- Prioritize the list
- Do the list
- Handle the incoming
- Repeat the process...forever

Create a list
The first and most basic step of time management is to make sure that you capture EVERY task you need to do and commitment that you make to others. I tell people that if you don't see me write it down, then it is not going to get done. Period.

Instead of overworking your brain by trying to remember everything you commit to (e.g. returning that call, sending that email), write it down. If you don't, be prepared for the embarrassment of saying "I spaced it", "sorry I didn't call you", "it slipped my mind", etc. These are not the comments of someone that you'd want to give your hard earned money to. So, why should you expect someone to want to do business with you if this is your modus operandi?

Prioritize the list
At the end of each day, review your notes and consolidate all action-items and "to dos" onto a single list. Review the list and set a priority for each item as follows:

  • (A) Those items that ABSOLUTELY MUST be done the following day.
  • (B) Items that are important but not critical to complete tomorrow.
  • (C) Would be nice to get done, but can easily be pushed off until…
  • (D) Items that you can and should delegate to someone else.
  • (E) Items that can be eliminated.

Recognize that not every task carries the same level of importance, and each has a committed and/or expected timeframe. Consider all of these factors when setting priority and you'll find that there will only be a handful of items (6 to 8) that ABSOLUTELY MUST be done the following day. The rest can wait.

Do your list
Now that you've established priorities, you can begin the next day by working on those items flagged as priority A. Don't touch the B's or C's, even if they are easy or more enjoyable. Being able to crank out several B's and C's can provide immediate gratification. But, guess what? At the end of the day you will look back at your list and find incomplete priority A items staring you in the face. Another day of ineffective time management.

As you complete a task, take the final step of crossing it off your list. The feeling of accomplishment is extremely rewarding as you recognize that you've filtered through the noise of the day and completed an important task that you committed to perform for, or deliver to, someone else. Great job!

Handle the incoming
Now reality hits. You have begun your new practice of working on your priority A items and you receive an urgent phone-call, email or visit from a co-worker requesting your immediate attention. Here is the moment of truth. Do you drop everything and completely engage to address this "incoming" item? Maybe. But, maybe not...Remember, whenever you say "yes" to someone or something, you are, at the same time, saying "no" to a prior commitment (to someone or yourself).

To be sure, you will need to assess the importance of the item that has just entered your radar screen. However, it doesn't mean you immediately must engage and respond. Instead, it may simply mean that you carefully understand the request and add it to your list as a priority B or C item (something you can address tomorrow or later).

Too often we mistake the urgent for the important. To be an effective manager of your time, you need to qualify (however briefly) each demand for your time and consciously decide where it fits in your priority scheme for the day.

Want to be perceived as an exceptional performer? Do what you said you would do and don't get caught up in "stream of consciousness" by bouncing from activity to activity based upon what is in your face at the moment.

What we have covered here are the basics that will get you jump started on the path of being an effective manager of your time. If you are like me, you need more, in which case I recommend the most effective book on time management that I have ever read: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

In closing, if you want to be known as someone who can be counted on and is a high performer, in the eyes of your customer and your peers, you must be an EXCELLENT manager of your time. This means that you must be on time, every time, for calls, meetings, appointments and completing your tasks and activities as committed. Anything less is not serving your customer.

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 an example of exemplary customer service.

Several months ago, I purchased a Nikon digital camera. I had problems when I tried to load the software and download my first photos to the PC. Since I work in an IT department but am not a computer geek, I am always reluctant to admit that I can't make something work. I finally called the Nikon helpdesk and explained my problem. From the first word, the woman who answered the call was clearly interested in helping me understand and use their product better. She asked all the right questions, determined that I needed to plug the camera's USB cable directly into the PC and not into a 4-port hub that I was using, and then she insisted that she stay on the line while I tested it. I was a little embarrassed by my stupidity in not recognizing that the USB hub could be the problem, so I assured her that I could do the testing without bothering her any further (somewhat of a dubious claim). She told me she wanted the reassurance herself that the solution was a good one and insisted on walking through a test with me. The whole time she was incredibly pleasant – so much so that I would love to hire her myself - - and I would very much like to see their customer service training plan to employ in our own environment.

As a result of this experience, I purchased my husband's anniversary gift, a Nikon D70 SLR/digital camera the following summer. If I compare all of the customer service experiences against this one, most companies have a long way to go to measure up. Congratulations to Nikon; this customer service experience was exemplary!

Editor's note:A company's customer service can play a big role is a customer's future purchasing decision. A company whose customer service recognizes its importance to the customer, such as helping the customer understand and use its products better, will end up with happier, returning customers. Sure, customers might make "dumb" mistakes (not that this example was one), but they don't need to be made to feel that way. Treat your customer as a friend, and you'll get a loyal customer. (Check out this issue's Recommended Reading for more on this).

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

View previous Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down articles.


+ Customer Advocacy - Time is Money...and Your Reputation
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Recommended Reading

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Recommended Reading
This issue's recommended reading, Customer Service is Not a Four-Letter Word, by Gregory P. Smith, comes from LeaderValues, an organization established to provide free online resources in the area of Leadership Development, where articles originally published elsewhere online are republished in a centralized resource center. This article discusses the importance of "emotional bonds" in customer service, and provides advice on steps to follow to achieve exceptional customer service.

While you're at LeaderValues, check out Avoiding CRM's Common Pitfalls in the same section to read a republished article by CCI President
Craig Bailey. Long-time newsletter readers will recognize this as an early series in our newsletter that later became a whitepaper.

Seminar in Malaysia
Join Customer Centricity Founder and President Craig Bailey for a seminar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10-11 April 2006. Rescheduled from 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. Please contact us for more information.

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 possible.

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