Perfecting Service Management

Issue #84

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Another Satisfied CCI Customer: Electronic Environments Corporation
I engaged Craig to assist in my efforts to improve service quality and ensure we are prepared to profitably scale the business with growth. He immediately hit the ground running, performed a comprehensive assessment and delivered a high-impact report-out with a clear set of pragmatic recommendations inside of 10 days. In addition, he developed a customized seminar that was delivered to my senior management team providing practical approaches and techniques for improving how we manage our customer interactions and relationships, and our business.

I would highly recommend Craig if you are looking to obtain an outside objective perspective of how your firm is doing with respect to service quality and performance. With Craig there is no "pie in the sky." It is all "rubber meets the road."


Mike Kingsley - President, Electronic Environments Corporation

About EEC:
Electronic Environments Corporation (EEC), headquartered in Marlborough, Massachusetts, is a national, specialized, facility management company focused on servicing the physical utilities (UPS, Batteries, DC Power, HVAC, Standby Generation, and Fire Protection Systems) that support 24x7 Information Technology & Telecommunication Networks. Since 1986, EEC's services have been relied upon by mission critical facilities with the largest mainframe sites to the smallest telecom/network rooms. As a single source provider of vertically integrated services (engineering, installation, and maintenance), EEC has become a quality, economical solution for its many Fortune 500 clients. EEC differentiates its offerings by focusing on its clients' needs and the customer experience. EEC's many components - refined processes, advanced technologies, GPS tracking, web-based site maintenance reporting, web-based hazardous waste tracking, in-house professional engineers, factory and cross trained field technicians, electronic data collection, and more - all work together to make the vendor client experience an enjoyable one. EEC offers its clients one number, one contract, one contact, and one source of accountability.

Customer Advocacy - Project Management Basics, Part 1
by Craig Bailey

I often say that "if you have something important to accomplish that has more than 5 moving parts, you need a project plan." This is crucial not only for internal (back-office) projects but more-so for those projects that directly impact your external / paying customer. Effective project management is key to ensuring holistic delivery on the commitments your firm has made to the customer, and is an important skill to performing as a highly effective customer advocate.

The basics of project management include:

- Define the boundaries, resources and stakeholders
- Divide and conquer
- Obtain commitments and caveats
- Document and publish the plan
- Conduct periodic status meetings
- Check-in on critical tasks
- Communicate progress

In this article, I will cover the first 3 items from the list. The final 4 items will be covered in the next installment.

Define the boundaries, resources and stakeholders

The first step to driving a project involves clearly identifying the following:

  • Scope and objectives - The goal(s) of the project and anticipated outcome(s). In defining scope and objectives, it is also effective to identify what the project is NOT intended to accomplish.
  • Stakeholders - The project sponsors, business owner(s), participants, subject matter experts, customers and champions at all levels (executives to individual contributors).
  • Risks and assumptions - Those factors which may derail the project and potential undesirable outcomes if the project is not managed effectively. Additionally, you will want to identify all assumptions that you are making and/or basing your approach on.

After capturing this information in a project overview document, you will want to review this material with those involved in the project to ensure everyone is on the same page. By doing so, you will continue to hone the above and establish an increasingly clearer vision for the project team.

Divide and conquer

Once you know the boundaries, resources and stakeholders of the project, it is important to break down the discrete tasks and activities necessary to complete the project and establish ownership of each.

I am often engaged on projects that have been underway for several weeks or months, to get things back on track. Frequently, numerous people have been engaged, each working hard on project activities, but dates and milestones have continuously slipped. Once I complete the above steps (defining the boundaries), it often becomes clear that there are multiple "phases of value" that can be delivered to the [project] customer. Dividing the project into these phases of value increases the project team's focus and enables the team to achieve success in bite-sized chunks, thus boosting confidence levels of the project team and the [project] customer.

Obtain commitments and caveats

Once you know the project tasks and activities, you need to obtain commitment from task owners as to when each will be completed. This is where the rubber meets the road. Do you simply take the task owner's commitment at face value (I'll get this task done by 12/6)? Often you'll hear a task owner indicate something to the effect of; "I'll get it done, God willing and the creek don't rise." As the project manager, you need to determine the reasons why the creek will rise. While the task owner may have subject matter expertise in areas that you (the project manager) do not, you need to use your critical thinking skills to obtain an appropriate level of understanding to base your project plan on. You might ask questions such as: "What are the prerequisites to you completing this task? Do you have any vacation planned between now and then? What are the risks that might impact your ability to complete this task by the date you mentioned?"

If you find that the timeframe to complete a critical path task seems unreasonable, you will then want to do a deep dive to learn more about the nature of the task and approach being taken to complete it. You may find that they are trying to build a Mercedes when all you need is a Pontiac to get the job done. You certainly want quality, but there is a business (cost/benefit) trade-off that you, the project manager, need to facilitate.

In the next edition, I will cover the 4 remaining "basics" of project management. In the meantime, if you have a critical project that you want to ensure achieves desired outcomes, or one that continues to miss the mark, give us a call. We would be happy to provide insight and guidance on approaches we have taken to ensure project success in numerous situations. And, if it makes sense, we'd be happy to engage with you to drive the project to achieve desired outcomes.

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.

When it comes to hotels, there is one place my family goes time after time: Residence Inn by Marriott. We discovered this chain when looking for a hotel that could accommodate sleeping our three young children close by without all of us having to go to bed at the same time. The 2-bedroom suites suit our sleeping requirements perfectly (us in one room, 2 kids in second room, baby in crib that moves among 3 rooms for naps and night-time). But what we have grown to depend on is consistency. We have stayed at several different Residence Inn hotels across the country, and we have received the same great service each time, from quickly fixing a broken closet door, to providing Belgian waffles and Fruit Loops (a real kid treat!) for breakfast, to finding us a room day after day, at a reduced rate, as our return flight was cancelled 4 days in a row due to blizzard snow in Boston.

We will be traveling to
Florida in a couple of months with extended family and will need to stay in a hotel for one night. For such a short stay and with more of us going, we have more options with sleeping arrangements; however, as I started to read reviews of other hotels and saw several comments like "we had been guaranteed a non-smoking room but when we arrived, they only had smoking rooms," we decided to stick with our consistently good Residence Inn, even if the price was a little more. No reason to get up for our vacation on the wrong side of the bed!

Editor's note: Understanding your customers and providing them with quality customer service is very important, but it is just the start. Being able to provide that level of service on a consistent basis, for different customers, in different situations, in different markets, is taking customer service to the next level. Your customers will reward you for it with their loyalty.

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.

Contents

+ Customer Advocacy - Project Management Basics, Part 1
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Recommended Reading
 


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Customer Centricity Partners with Buyerzone.com
Customer Centricity, in partnership with Buyerzone.com, is offering a free ROI calculator to assist customers in obtaining approval for investing in contact center improvement initiatives. And, for those who would like to take the ROI analysis to the next level, Customer Centricity is offering a no-cost / no-obligation 30 minute consultation. Check it out for yourself!

Recommended Reading
The holiday season is upon us, that joyous time of year that causes us the most stress. Among the many top-ten lists out there, we found this one by W. Michael King (on the Direct Marketing Association website): REMEMBER THIS: Ten Forget-Me-Nots for Maximizing Retail Holiday Profits. While the article was written a year ago, the concepts apply equally to now, and for years ahead.

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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