Perfecting Service Management

Issue #9 Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Welcome!

topical index

Welcome to this edition of the Customer Centricity newsletter, where we explore ways you can improve the performance of your service organization.

In this issue we provide the next article in the series on avoiding the common pitfalls of CRM implementations. Additionally, Barbara Dove and Bill Tobin, two of our associates, each provide timely insight for the new year!
 

In this issue:

Customer Centricity Delivering A Customer Service Workshop

Customer Centricity is again scheduled to present "A Customer Service Workshop" at Rivier College, in Nashua, NH. This event will take place on Thursday, March 20, from 5:45-7:45pm. This program is sponsored by the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center.

We will discuss how customer service can positively impact the bottom line for any size organization. We will also address what companies can do now, in these tough economic times, to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

This program is designed for any business that has significant customer contact, whether it is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. The program is a hands-on workshop designed to help companies improve the performance of their service organization.

The program will be held in Rivier College’s Education Center, Room 313, located at 420 Main Street in Nashua, NH. Admission is $25 and registration is required. A reduced admission of $15 is available for additional attendees from the same company. To register contact Rosemary Macmillan at Rivier College at 603-897-8587 or via email at rmcmillan@rivier.edu.

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Avoiding CRM's Common Pitfalls - Part 4

(parts 1-3* of this series can be found in previous issues linked below)

Our series on avoiding the common pitfalls of CRM implementations covers 6 key areas:

  1. Viewed as a technical, not a business, problem

  2. Driven from the top down

  3. Lack of senior management involvement

  4. Not targeting the areas of highest adoption

  5. Driven by the IT organization vs. business leaders accountable for the numbers

  6. Trying to do too much at once

This article will review the 5th pitfall of CRM implementations: Driven by the IT organization vs. business leaders accountable to meet the numbers

Make no mistake, your IT organization is a critical aspect to the successful automation of your CRM practices. However, if your IT organization is leading the overall initiative, you have not placed accountability where it belongs. Let’s look again at the “promise of CRM”:

  • Increased revenue and profitability

  • Improved customer and employee satisfaction and loyalty

  • Increased operational efficiencies

Who is accountable to achieve these results? It is typically NOT the IT organization. Instead it is the senior manager of Sales, Marketing and Service. As such, these leaders are the ones that need to sign-up for ensuring success of your CRM initiative. Again, IT (whether we are talking about the CRM system or the people integrating the system into your environment) is an enabler. Your business leaders need to ensure that their organizations are ready from the following perspectives:

  • People – skilled, incented and empowered to effectively manage customer relationships and are bought into the CRM initiative

  • Process – methods and techniques are in place to manage customer relationships in consistent, efficient and effective manners

If your people aren’t ready and/or your processes are poorly defined then implementing technology will simply make the bad things that are happening today, in how you manage customer relationships, occur more rapidly. CRM will become the microscope that highlights these problems. And, worse still, the microscope (your CRM initiative) will be what is blamed for these problems, that pre-existed, yet weren’t previously visible cross-functionally.

If your organizational leaders ensure that their people are ready, and effective processes are in place (and documented) then the IT aspect of your CRM initiative will actually be the easy part.

STRATEGY: CRM projects must be owned and driven by the senior business managers responsible for meeting the numbers.

Our next article in this series will address the 6th pitfall of CRM implementations. You can review previous articles, in this series, by clicking the links below.

Previous Issues in this series:

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Reduce the Stress in Selecting Your Call Management System

By Bill Tobin

So, you need a new call management system…

As your company’s Customer Support Manager, you’ve just been informed that you have successfully justified to your Sr. Management Team the need to replace the homegrown call management system (CMS), in place for the past 7 years. They sincerely understand your team’s pain in trying to manage customer tickets, utilizing technology that was originally developed as an interim solution with but one requirement – a place to log calls. That’s right - no escalation, no querying for historical client or product data, no easy way to provide your management team with daily and monthly reports, no knowledgebase, etc…

Don’t worry! You are not alone out there. Every Customer Support Manager who has ever received approval for call management technology has had to decide how they would now find and select the best solution for their company. Many times, adding to the challenge of taking those next steps is to move quickly and efficiently before your system is shaved from the budget until next year.

In the next few editions of our newsletter, I will provide you with a methodology I have successfully utilized both as an employee and a consultant to select and implement the best technology for the client’s need. My goal is to provide you with a framework to progress through the process in an organized way, resulting in an educated decision based on your research. Let’s eliminate the need to make a decision on your “gut feel” with the salesperson or the vendor.

Throughout this series I will also include some valuable tips, which I probably discovered the hard way.

Step 1 – Identify a project manager, create a project plan and hold a kick-off meeting

The vendor selection and implementation process should be viewed by your company as a critical project, impacting cross-functional teams. Every project requires a project manager and a project plan. Thus, Step 1 involves identifying someone with the background and skill set to lead your project. In most cases this is either yourself, the person with the largest stake in the success of the project, or an experienced consultant hired to work with you in driving the selection and implementation process.

Now it’s time to share your CMS Project Plan with the rest of your management team, along with anyone else involved with the project. Hold a scheduled CMS Kickoff Meeting, confirming that all key managers and players are available to attend. The meeting should be no longer than 90 minutes, with the goal being to review the CMS Project Plan and gather attendee feedback. Key areas to be aware of are conflicts with task owner’s available time and also other major projects on the table that are running parallel to your delivery dates. Remember, this project may be number one for you, but your peers are most likely juggling multiple priorities of which your call management system is but one.

Tip #1 – Be sure to allocate the proper amount of YOUR time for this project and communicate this to your management team. Don’t underestimate! If you are the project manager, you will have to offload some of your “day job” responsibilities in order to properly lead this project to a successful completion.

In the next article of this series, I’ll cover the creation of your Requirements Document.

If you have any questions or want to bounce an idea off a friendly sounding board, don’t hesitate to contact Bill Tobin at (617) 909-6682 or billtobin@comcast.net.

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Can Outsourcing Contact Center Functions Work For Me?

By Barbara Dove

The need for companies to address functions which are not in its area of core competency is growing, as margins are eroded with lower sales. Outsourcing these functions can be a less costly alternative and can be done effectively with the right partner.

At a recent WBZ breakfast for entrepreneurs, we heard that the major failure for new startups is due to the inability to react to changes in demand. New startups react too slowly to a dramatic increase or decrease in demand for their product or service. Some companies are mitigating this problem by partnering with outsourced service firms to provide needed skills and capabilities that are not a core competency of the business. One area companies are outsourcing is their customer helpdesk.

Customer contact activity, a necessary component of any business, can be a drain on resources. It is important to stay on top of what the customer is thinking about your product. However this area is often neglected as the demands of other parts of the business take over. The operation may not be adequately staffed, and calls may have to be addressed by members of the staff who are working on other activities. These interruptions can be costly to productivity, and may not require a high-level skill-set to address.

Software developers at a firm, for example, experience interruptions caused not by the software sold, but by the customer's operating system, existing network setup, or hardware. Problems that come into the software company may be unrelated to the product and should be referred to a competent pc support operation, but having none, the small software development firm answers the questions in order to get the customer up and running.

A competent helpdesk outsourcer can be a partner who is set up to grow and shrink with you. As your business is not the sole source of income for this outsourcing business, they are able to plan changes in size according to their customer needs and absorb some of the volatility businesses experience in periods of growth and contraction.

An effective helpdesk outsourcing firm can provide the needed expertise to answer the basic calls where the solution is known, respond to calls that are unrelated to the product, and summarize all customer contact activity for the company.

One way to partner with an outsourcer is to filter calls at the company and pass on those that the outsourcer can respond to. Automated call distribution mechanisms can be used to facilitate this call distribution. The outsourcer will summarize activity and report statistics on responsiveness. One issue with this method is that no one is looking at the entire base of calls, to analyze the type and root-cause resolution of these calls.

Another approach is to have the Helpdesk Outsourcer answer all incoming contacts from customers; responding to those unrelated to the product and commonly known problems, and escalating those calls requiring a skill-set within the company's area of core competency.

As the Helpdesk Outsourcer gains knowledge of common problems they can create and post updated FAQs for the company. Often they will be able to rewrite manuals or on-line help files to provide solutions to common problems where the customer can retrieve them easily. Some Helpdesk providers can develop and deliver training on the product as well to mitigate incorrect use of the product, or help the customer get better use of the product.

The Helpdesk Outsourcer accumulates most of the customer interaction as first line support and is in touch with the customer’s needs. Analysis can lead to problem solving and elimination of redundant calls. This leads inevitably to reduced call activity as customers gain more information over the web and contact the helpdesk less and less. Some Help Desk Service Providers regard this as lost revenue. A good Helpdesk Outsourcer will find other ways to expand the business. And, a happy customer will recommend a service that eliminates waste, runs efficiently and costs less in the long run.

Outsourcing helpdesk functions to a third party provides many advantages that an existing business may not be able to effectively address. If they approach the right third party and stay on top of the outsourced activity, they will find costs lower and customers more satisfied. Customers will return for better product and great service.

Barbara Dove is the President of Sickle Brook Services, Inc., a Helpdesk outsource provider for small businesses.

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More About Customer Centricity, Inc.

Customer Centricity is a business consulting firm that partners with companies to improve the performance of their service organizations. We leverage our real-world experience to help our clients manage their customer relationships in more effective and satisfying ways.

Customer Centricity delivers on this promise by optimizing the interaction between people, process and technology to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction and increased operational efficiencies. We provide:

  1. Comprehensive assessments to identify the actions that will yield the greatest return;
  2. Skills Training to enable customer-facing personnel to deliver exceptional levels of customer service;
  3. Design and Implementation of business process techniques to serve the customer in efficient, effective and consistent manners; and
  4. Identification of the appropriate business processes to automate, enabling companies to get the most from their investments in technology.

In addition to our core practices, we also maintain a network of strategic partnerships to provide end-to-end consulting across your organization with a commitment to seamless execution.

Click on the following link to see what our customers have to say.

To learn more about Customer Centricity:

call: 603.491.7948

send e-mail to: info@customercentricity.biz 

or visit our web-site: www.customercentricity.biz

In Closing

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Copyright (c) 2003 by Customer Centricity, Inc. All rights reserved.