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Customer Advocacy - Navigating the Organization
series on becoming a highly effective customer advocate, we provide this
article sharing practical approaches to enable you and your service team
to navigate your organization in support of meeting customer expectations.
While the objective of any service team is "first touch" resolution for as
many inquiries as possible, some number of inquiries (escalated or
otherwise) will require the engagement of other resources within and even
outside of your own firm.
Navigating the organization to respond to and resolve customer inquiries
involves the following:
· Doing your
· Using your
interpersonal management skills
· Dealing with
Knowing who to go to before you get the ball
Doing your part
The first step to ensure you get the support you need from the rest of the
organization is to set the example. Are you easily accessible to others
when they are in need of your support? And, when you are away (briefly, or
for an extended period such as vacation) do you let people know how to get
the support they need?
There are two basic steps you can take here:
1) Set up your standard voice-mail greeting with a message indicating an
alternate contact number (your cell) and/or a person whom others can
contact in the event of an emergency or when you are not immediately
2) When you are going to be away for an extended period of time, indicate
so in your voice-mail greeting, and set up an email auto-responder with
full details of an alternative contact. In both cases, you will want to
make sure that you have "cleared" the coverage with your alternate contact
to make sure he/she will be available during your absence.
Using your interpersonal management skills
When you have been "lit up" by a customer due to a particularly
troublesome issue that requires support from others in your organization,
your interpersonal communications must be kept in check. Remember that it
is not only what you say but how you say it. People are busy, so being
respectful of this fact when requesting their support will go a long way
to obtain their buy-in to respond to the customer situation.
Dale Carnegie said it best: "you can get more with a teaspoon of honey
than a gallon of gall." In fact, if you haven't read the book
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie I suggest you
Dealing with non-responsive people
If, or should I say when, your attempts to engage someone results in a
non-response, there are 3 steps to consider:
1) Remain focused on the client, who is the reason why you are both
employed at your company.
2) Explain to the person you are attempting to engage what's in it for
him/her. For example, resolving the customer's situation may support your
firm's customer satisfaction or revenue goals, for which you are both "bonused."
The situation could provide an opportunity for two cross-functional
organizations to demonstrate effective collaboration and bridge building.
Finally, if you still meet with a lack of response or willingness to help
3) Go up the food chain. The person you are relying on likely has a
specific set of skills or subject-matter-expertise. Not being available
might not be his/her problem, nor is it your, or the customer's, problem.
But, it is the problem of the supervisor or manager of the organization
whose resource you are attempting to engage. So, you can take the next
step of contacting the "next level" in the management chain and indicate
something to the effect of "We have [this customer situation] that needs
the attention of someone with Chris's skills. However, it appears that
Chris is extremely busy and unable to get involved. Who would you suggest
that I work with from your team on this?" The supervisor can then make the
decision to reprioritize Chris's work list or allocate an alternate
resource to engage.
Too frequently people are afraid to take this step because they feel that
they will damage relationships. But, considering the approach outlined
above, have you actually "told on" Chris? No, not really. You have
actually acknowledged that Chris is a very knowledgeable and valuable
employee who is extremely busy.
Knowing who to go to before you get the ball
When coaching baseball, we tell the players that they need to know what to
do with the ball if it is hit to them, before the pitch is thrown. The
same applies in business.
If your business has achieved any measure of success, you have realized
that you can no longer deliver highly effective and responsive customer
service by simply leveraging long-held personal relationships. In fact,
you may no longer know everyone else in the company, or at least who is in
the office and when. As such, there needs to be a formalized
"who-to-call-list" that provides key contact information for each
functional area that is directly involved in impacting the customer
experience. To be clear, this is NOT a corporate directory or phone list.
The "who-to-call-list" is a matrix that contains the primary point of
contact, backup, manager, director and VP of each functional area along
with 24x7 contact information for each. While the primary points of
contact and backups may rotate from time to time, the manager, director
and VPs will remain static unless there are organizational changes. If
you'd like a copy of a who-to-call-list template,
please let us know. We would be happy to share this with you at
In closing, we are continuing to "share the basics" that are absolutely
critical / foundational items that must be in place to perform as a highly
effective customer advocate. And, there is more…See you next edition...
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.
I wanted to go to
Cape May, NJ to
enjoy the southern beach and warm ocean water. I found the hotel on the
Internet. The woman on the phone who took my reservation couldn't have
been more helpful, spending much time talking to me about weather and
activities in town. When I arrived, the people at the front desk were
exceptional during my whole stay. I will be back!
(And, wonder of wonders, it was a family owned and run place. The
campground I return to every summer in Maine and the dude ranch I return
to every Thanksgiving are both family owned and run. There is a secret
here! When a front line employee has a vested interest, they are far more
responsive to the customer, as compared to just an employee collecting a
Editor's note:Unless you are
receiving money directly from customers, it can be easy to forget that it
is the customer who is really paying your bills. Family-owned businesses
get this because they have to. Employees just collecting paychecks might
not, so it's up to management within customer service organizations to
help employees get this, by sharing the voice of the customer with the
rest of the organization and implementing appropriate reward and incentive
mechanisms. Download our whitepaper
Rewarding and Incenting Customer Service Representatives for more
information on this topic.
Have your own customer service experience to share?
Email us. Names will be changed to protect the guilty....
View previous Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down articles.
+ Customer Advocacy - Navigating the Organization
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Recommended Reading
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Embarking on the
Journey to Customer Centricity
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
Because it never
hurts to reinforce an important point, this edition we recommend CRM
Customer Service Failures: Not Always a CRM Problem by Rashid Kahn.
Too often, technology is implemented as the silver-bullet solution without
considering the fundamental supporting processes. The reality is, without
good, well-defined processes, automation simply makes bad things happen
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
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