A Surprisingly Powerful Way To Improve Customer Service

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“What is the best way to improve customer service?”  That is the question successful organizations ask on an ongoing basis.  Most take a strategic, top-down approach.  They establish clear customer service objectives, assess existing customer journeys, identify existing expectations, identify gaps and opportunities, then create a strategic map for improvement.

It’s a solid process, but can be very time-consuming, and sometimes even counterproductive.  Sometimes, when Big Data gets involved, things can get mired in minutia.  It’s hard to be innovative when there are too many seemingly competing things to consider.  Paralysis by analysis.  There is also a risk in relying too much on theory, best practices and modelling.  This can result in trying to jam square pegs into round holes.

A Bottom-Up Approach Is Another Way To Improve Customer Service

A different, but very powerful way to approach improving your customer service is to simply begin with one customer, and go from there.  Here’s how it works:

1.  Select one of your customers.  Just one.  Start with a smaller one to keep things simple

2.  Pull together 4-6 people to create an ‘innovation committee’ of sorts

3.  If it is a B2B client, meet with them, either in-person, or over the phone.  Learn as much as you can about their business.  Try to understand the role your product or service plays in the success of their business – and the success of individuals you deal with.

4.  Ask yourselves, “What can we do to improve the experience of this one customer?”  Watch how your employees interact with them.  Are your employees friendly?  Are they proactive?  Are they helpful?  Do they seem to genuinely care about how satisfied the customer is?  Examine how easy you are to do business with.  Does this customer have to jump through any hoops?  What could you do to make the interaction, faster or more seamless?

5.  Ask yourselves, “What can we do to increase the value of our product or service so that we become indispensable to this one customer, and to keep this customer loyal to us?”

Repeat this with a second customer, then with a third.  After you have done this a few times, you will begin to see patterns.  You will begin to see little things that can be applied on a larger scale.  If you involve a lot of people in your company in this exercise, it will begin to send the message through your company of how precious individual relationships with customers are.

The bottom-up approach is less precise and more iterative, but it forces you to see and deal with the nuances that can be lost in a traditional ‘strategic’ approach.  You may, ultimately, end up in the same place, but the process helps you build employee engagement and customer focus.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Shaun – I like the points you make – in your last paragraph, especially. What hit me hard at the beginning, though was the question, “What is the best way to improve customer service?” While I agree that many executives ask it, the question doesn’t sound right to me . . .

    Partly because I know the information people are fishing for – less an approach, framework, or methodology, but rather a ‘quick fix.’ If I answered “reduce the time it takes for customers to resolve their technical problems!” the senior operations executive would cross the matter off his list and cheerily assign staff to develop an efficiency plan, stat. About a week later, we’d review a PowerPoint with newly-relevant KPI’s and other measurements succinctly established.

    The problem is, by asking a less-meaningful question, the company has chased down a subsidiary issue. Meanwhile, fist bumps all around while improved KPI’s make outcomes look hunky-dory (customers are being helped faster!).

    Alas, service HAS improved, but products are still crappy, they’re technologically lame, and there’s a still-too-high percentage of customers heading for the exits.

    There’s another way to pick up on the nuances you describe, which is to ask a different question at the outset: How do we ensure that our customers achieve the best outcomes? That leads to different introspection, and expectantly different strategies, tactics, and results.

  2. Dear Shaun:
    Good idea and a good start.
    Since 2004, we have been starting Customer Centric Circles within companies, where we have selected front line people, some staff people (HR, IT, Finance) who focus on the Customer.
    We help the front line people build their self-esteem, become more aware and then pro-active towards the Customer leading to a continuous customer improvement program.
    We have never tried your approach. It certainly has merit

  3. A key reason companies have a difficult time delivering more personalized and relevant service, and achieving stronger customer loyalty, is that the fail to provide full value and emotional relationship fundamentals. They focus on satisfying customers exclusively through basic rational and functional benefits, frequently in a reactive way through service,, which is often too benign and passive an approach to create lasting value and desired long-term relationships. To earn loyalty and advocacy behavior, more is needed.

    Deal with the subconscious, emotionally-driven and memorable results customers take away from interactions and relationships. Omni-channel service is a great place to start

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