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 which 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 which promotes delivering exceptional service. To put another way just about everyone can make a sandwich, however a chef is more likely to deliver an exception one as they have fined tuned their skills and have tools to assist in making the better product.
So what is the element that differentiates from an average customer experience to an exceptional one? In my experience on of the first items to address is the assumption that we, as a service provider, knows what the customer wants.
We need to 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, what issues they are facing with the services, how quickly (or not) services are provisioned or restored in the case of issues.
Caution: your metrics are likely to have some flaws so this is why using your own data can lead you to assume you know what the customer wants. This is probably how you have assessed your ability to provide service in the past and it is only half the equation.
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 which 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 necessarily 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 who 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 3 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 we 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.