Wednesday 13 November 2013

What is "Customer Service”?

If “customer service” is a department you are probably missing the point...

What does this mean to you?

  • Are all of your employees in 'Customer Services'?
  • Have they got permission to take control of customer situations and resolve the issue completely?
  • Do you learn from these issues and work to make sure that they are resolved at root cause, avoiding the problem in the future, and increasing future customer satisfaction?
For many, customer services is about answering the phone, quickly, with a smile, making sure they meet their KPIs.  But few actually try to understand why customers are calling in the first place.

Why does a customer contact the "Customer Service" department?  What does the customer want?  What has gone wrong?

Great customer service is when any problems that arise are fixed quickly and efficiently, and where the lesson is learned at the source of the problem so it is designed out of the process, ensuring it can't go wrong again.

Why does this matter?  You may have 10s or 100s of staff answering the phone to customers.  Many will be calling with the same issue, and anything up to 50% of those calls will be:

  • chasing for a response to a previous call;
  • complaining about an error or failure; or
  • asking for simple information because it's not readily available.
Designing the process to avoid these issues could mean that 50% will improve your bottom line.  Who wouldn't want that?

One of many of Deming's fantastic quotes:

If you can't describe what you're doing as a process, 
you don't know what you're doing.

A fantastic quote from the man who helped design practical work flow based on customer demand.

He certainly helped Toyota in both:

 - designing cars based on what the customer actually wanted; and a
 - production process that was as efficient as possible.

In a manufacturing environment, this might be distinguished by two clear sets of managers and engineers focussed on:

 - designing the latest car, including engine efficiency, improved comfort, latest colours etc ; and
 - designing the production line, including how the workers assemble the car, where the tools are placed, and how quickly a car can be put together.

So what does that mean in the office environment?  Whether you are processing invoices, clearing insurance claims, or processing benefit claims, who in your office is the expert in:

 - the subject matter; and
 - the production process?

Most don't appreciated the difference, until asked.

Why does this matter? Simple - cost!

Getting the process wrong increases costs through unnecessary re-work and error.  Ensuring work flows in and through the office cleanly, and 'right-first-time', both improves quality from the customer's perspective, improves staff moral, and reduces costs.

It has been shown that efficiency can improve by between 10% and 30%.  Who wouldn't want that on the bottom line?