I was prompted to think about customer service the other day when I was in line at a bank (yes, an actual queue in a physical bank). The customer ahead of me was speaking with the teller and trying to get a concern across that ultimately required a manager to resolve. Before the person left, they said to the manager, “It’s about time you got my service right!” I started to think to myself—everyone expects a great customer experience. No one intends on having bad customer service, so why does it seem to be a challenge to deliver one?
The simple answer is that we haven’t enabled our service providers in a way that promotes delivering exceptional service. To put it another way, just about everyone can make a sandwich; however, chefs are more likely to create something exceptional since they have fine-tuned their skills and have tools to assist in making the better product.
So what is the element that differentiates an average customer experience from an exceptional one? In my experience, one of the first items to address is the assumption that we, as a service provider, know what the customer wants.
We need to truly understand the customer.
From the service provider angle
There are a couple of ways to attack this one. First look at it from the perspective of what you already know by leveraging your own metrics. Get an understanding of what services your customer consumes. Ask yourself some of the following questions:
What issues are they facing with the services themselves?
How quickly (or not) are services provisioned?
How about the restoration of services in the face of issues?
One word of caution is to watch your metrics, as there may be unknown flaws in your reporting that will amplify what assumptions there are about your customers and what they want.
From the customer angle
You really need to speak with your customers regularly (not once a year) to see what is working well and what areas can use some improvements. Have some strategy on how you want to solicit information from your customer base. You might decide that reducing time to completion for requests is the top priority. So when you ask your customers about it, don’t have vague questions that will have answers that will provide little value for your improvement strategy. For example: “How would you rate the speed of service—Great, Average, or Bad?” The answer to these may not help you to improve anything as they do not tell the whole story.
Put the two pieces together
My suggestion is to do your homework first. Find out what the services look like, who is doing what, and when to target whom you will want to speak with. Next, look to see from your end what may be working well or not. Then go to your customer armed with some data to discuss these details. It might sound something like this:
Service Provider: “It looked like in the past three months we have seen an increase in the amount of requests, as well as the duration of those requests for application x.”
Customer: “Yes, we have started a new marketing blast for our customers that has increased the need for not only new associates but the roles that they need to get their work completed.”
Service Provider: “I see. Is this a seasonal promotion or something that is long-lasting?
Customer: “Actually, in the coming months we are looking to expand our sales globally.”
In this example you can see that the dialog has indicated that there was an increase of use as a business requirement and that this is not expected to drop off; it is likely that this use may even increase. This knowledge should allow you to address the fact that, from a customer delivery perspective, you need to make some adjustments. But passing this information along to internal support teams may help to ensure that the application in question is robust enough to handle further use, which would also in the long run help service availability and promote an excellent customer experience.
In short, understand what your customer needs, as well as what you are currently providing, and this will allow you to have better discussions with them around improving service delivery.
For more brilliant insights, check out Ryan’s blog: Service Management Journey