Co-authored by Tushar J. Kaushik
Excellent customer service is an art, but even works of art require a structural foundation to come to life. This is why a framework for addressing customer service issues is crucial. It provides a clear, firm channel by which employees, novice or experienced, can successfully apply their unique perspectives and still address customer concerns consistently.
A framework is not intended to be a solutions manual (as that is where experience and the art of customer service comes in), but rather a guidebook to orient anyone in a customer-facing role towards their responsibilities in creating a positive client experience. Whether you are resolving the issue of a small supplier in Germany, or a major Fortune 100 client based in the U.S., the steps to resolving customer service concerns are the same.
The REDI Model for Customer Service Success is a proven framework that can be easily taught across cultures to arm everyone from front line customer service workers to senior company leaders with the tools for success in tackling any problem with confidence. As explained below, this framework provides a prism through which any customer service issue can be identified and resolved in the long-term, by focusing on cascading effects and drawing back from detailed issues to look at big-picture problematic symptoms.
Recognize – One of the challenges with complex situations is that even the client may not be able to identify the root of a problem. They just know that something isn’t working and they want a solution. Merely ‘hearing them out’ as noted in the HEAT model for customer service isn’t enough. Employees need to be able to actively listen, ask insightful questions, and determine what is really causing the problem. It could be multiple factors, requiring complex resolution, but taking the time to ask some thoughtful questions can save both the customer and the customer service expert from grasping at ineffectual solutions. This approach ensures that solutions are tailored to address the underlying problems, not just the surface issues. However, it’s important to note that this stage should be efficient; a prolonged investigation may actually worsen the customer’s frustration.
Embrace – Customer service studies show that empathy and a brief apology are a soothing balm to most upset customers. These approaches are essential to start diffusing tense situations, but are merely an initial stop on the journey to finding long-term solutions. The second step is titled ‘embrace’ because beyond the empathy and apology, what is truly necessary is to take ownership of the issue and lead the customer to a solution. This step is essential as it bridges the initial empathy and apology with tangible results. It transforms a potentially negative customer experience into a positive one by demonstrating a commitment to the customer’s well-being. As research has shown, what customers really want is a solution. After a short introductory period, apologizing and verbalizing empathy will actually undermine client satisfaction, as they are really just waiting to move on next steps.
Design – For companies that want to switch from surviving to thriving, customer service has to become a tool for improvement. If all a solution does is put out a fire, a company is likely to find itself ablaze time and time again. What is needed is to design solutions that encompass the immediate issue, as well as second and third tier impacts that may be felt down the line. For example, if the customer service issue is frustration with lack of product support, the solution needs to be to look beyond this client’s individual case and to address weak product support generally. Every front-line customer service person is a consultant in this model. In determining how best to resolve a case, they need to look at similar cases and take notes on business improvement for this client and others. This may require that companies rethink their customer service approaches in order to both empower more junior people to authorize solutions, as well as to ensure that feedback from the customer challenges is making it back to senior levels of leadership to adjust business processes and strategies.
Implement – The last step is to implement the solution. This is not a ‘fire and forget’ approach. In complex, volatile global business situations, solutions require constant adjustment and offer key opportunities to get crucial feedback on the efficacy of the company’s approach and policies. Proposed solutions may also fizzle out and come up short, only by maintaining communication does one have the opportunity to ensure that things work out to their satisfaction. This ‘post-solution’ care is not simply a question of mailing a survey to someone after the fact, it requires a human touch to encourage honest feedback and monitor the impact of solutions.
In an era of data-driven decision-making, the REDI Model encourages organizations to analyze customer data thoroughly. By identifying recurring issues, companies can develop data-driven strategies for proactive customer service. They can predict potential issues, design preemptive solutions, and continuously monitor the impact of these solutions. This analytical approach not only enhances customer satisfaction but also provides valuable insights for operations and business strategy. Imagine a scenario where a company utilizes the REDI Model to analyze supplier feedback. Through this process, they detect a recurring trend of suppliers experiencing frustrating contracting errors when they try to input terms and details into an online sales system. Armed with this knowledge, the company can develop preemptive solutions the not only fix the supplier interface, but they can also look more broadly at improved solutions that would obviate the need for a clunky interface in the first place. Such proactive measures not only improve customer satisfaction but also result in fewer support requests and reduced operational costs.
The REDI Model can be used for any customer service situation, and by any level of employee. For simple solutions, it works as a prompt (what’s the next step? Am I seeing the whole problem?) but even for leadership, it can be leveraged as a framework to review systems and policies. It serves as a foundation for organizations to build their entire customer service strategy. Companies can analyze customer data to identify recurring issues and develop proactive solutions. For example, if a business consistently receives complaints about delivery delays, the REDI Model prompts them to look beyond the immediate problem. They can redesign their supply chain or logistics processes to prevent future delays, improving customer satisfaction and operational efficiency simultaneously.
For trainers and managers, the REDI Model is an easy gateway to ensure that customer service orientation percolates through the culture. It guides learning and development, fosters consistency, aligns with the organization’s values, and promotes continuous improvement. By integrating it into their practices and making it an integral part of the company’s ethos, trainers and managers can shape a unique customer-centric organization and set it up for long-term success.
In conclusion, the REDI Model is a tool to help companies reflect on their practices and align their strategy to create memorable customer experience journeys. Good customer service is a ‘must have’ in this competitive business environment. It can also be real added value for the company if leaders embrace the need to leverage customer service feedback into improving efficiency and identifying underlying issues. Forward thinking companies will actively seek out feedback prior to customer complaints, through surveys, 360° evaluations and in-person engagement so that they can constantly adjust the direction of the company towards greater success and smoother operations through the prism of the REDI Model.
Tushar Kaushik is a learning and development specialist. He works as an Assistant Manager at Nexdigm enabling training and impact measurement initiatives in the Business Process Management (BPM) sphere.