Do You Make Assumptions?


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Well, I’m back. The last six weeks have been very interesting and I did a lot of work on a specific customer account along with some projects that were/are heating up.

As you may already know, my primary role is as a Client Satisfaction Manager. I handle complaints and escalations from customers, listen to them, establish a listing of what’s wrong, identify actions, “nag” co-workers to get it done and follow-up regularly and often.

This is easy when the problems are specific and technical. It becomes much more difficult when the complaints are generic and/or process-based. Changing processes and the habits/customs that go with them is a long, drawn-out job and absolutely requires executive support. (Which is why I now report to a VP.)

One of the complaints this customer had was that they had to continuously repeat to us what they wanted from the relationship. This had been going on so long that in the year I’ve been working with them, they never told me what they wanted (!) They expected the organisation to be organised and have an institutional memory; and they’re right.

Since, over the summer I was asked to not contact them, the management team I was working with decided to put together a presentation to this customer outlining their business needs and how we can help them. I was tasked with putting this together.

So, off I went through the organisation and started interviewing everyone (15-20 people) that had had interactions with this customer over the last few years. What I learned floored me!

Listening vs. Understanding

Everyone had listened to their customer and retained some information (good thing) but there were some serious issues.

  • Very few people had understood the same things;
  • Only some had questioned the client to ensure they understood;
  • Most expected the customer to hand them a defined solution that we could simply implement;
  • When asked “What is the business need”, only one could regularly answer the question;
  • Most confused “business need” and “technical solution”;
  • When I explained what a “business need” was, I often drew blank stares.

As you may imagine, this exercise took a long time.  I spent nearly three months putting together a document that may be used to have discussions with this client in the future.


I learned a lot from this exercise.  However, not about the client (yes, I learned about them too).

I already knew about the dangers of making assumptions, this exercise reinforced it’s importance.

Most importantly, I’ve come to the conclusion that all employees need to learn, at least, the basics of business concepts.  It’s particularly important that they understand the core business of your company which is to deliver products and/or services that meet a customer’s business needs.

They should also have a basic understanding of who their customers are.  Otherwise, how can they meet their needs?

What do you think?  What core concepts should all employees understand?


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Eric Jacques
Customer Excellence Blog
Customer Service Excellence Advocate -- working as a Client Satisfaction Manager


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