Catalytic Management Consulting
Accelerating Growth, Driving Performance

Outstanding Customer Service Doesn’t Happen by Accident

So, you want to deliver great service? Processes define customer service quality.

You do all the things management is supposed to do to ensure great customer service. You’ve listened to your customers, defined customer service, and set service standards. You’ve included service delivery standards in job descriptions and performance evaluations. You’ve provided training and coaching. You have a bonus program for great service delivery. And yet, both your customers and your support staff are complaining. Why? Because you neglected the underlying processes that drive service.

Process improvement is the least sexy of the service components and frequently messy. Effective process improvement takes time, honest self examination and a willingness to change. For these reasons, many organizations ignore the processes and policies that drive their service quality. But your business processes send employees the signals for how they should execute their jobs. If you’re serious about delivering superior service and making service a market differentiator, it’s time to examine what your processes are telling your staff and your customers.

Process improvement begins with the “voice of your customer.” You can’t and shouldn’t attempt process improvement until you’ve identified the processes that directly affect your customers and conducted conversations with your customers about how those processes affect them. How do you select which processes to examine and if warranted, improve?
Your process improvement initiative should include a close review from the customers view point. Processes should be designed for more than ease of execution for your staff. It may be easy for you but detrimental to your customer. You should look at the total customer experience from beginning to end. Examine the processes that affect your customer’s ability to:

  • Compare your product or service to your competitors
    Unless you’re selling an inferior or overpriced product or service, don’t be afraid to let your potential customers compare your offerings to your competitors. Encourage and guide them through the process. In the end you’ll have a stronger sale and longer term customers
  • Evaluate your product or service: demos, case studies, testimonials, fact sheets
    Part of the comparison involves a close evaluation of your product or service. Demos are wonderful tools; however, if demos are not appropriate, make it easy for the customer by sharing case studies or examples of how your product or service will work for them. Give the prospective customer testimonials of success.
  • Ask presale questions
    Most organizations have a good process that allows the prospective customer to get questions answered – they’re called sales and support staff. BUT, how easy is it to reach sales or support and how educated are they on the implementation or use of your product?
  • Purchase your product or service
    Making it easy for customers to buy seems like a no brainer. But this is an often ignored element of the customer experience. How many people must the customer interact with to complete the purchase? How many pieces of paper must they complete? Is your online process short with simple directions? If your product requires customization before the purchase is complete, how well do you guide the customer?
  • Use or deploy your product or service
    Are instructions for using the product clear and concise or do you need a PhD to get the product up and running?
  • Pay for or finance your product or service
    What payment or financing terms do you offer? Are your invoices accurate? Very few things anger a customer more than inaccurate invoices. They assume you’re either incompetent or dishonest, neither of which strengthens a relationship.
  • Contact You
    MAKE CONTACTING YOU EASY. Don’t bury your phone number in layers on your website. Don’t make the customer wait through voice mail hell before you tell them how to reach a LIVE representative. The vast majority of organizations have taken automation to such extremes that the general public feels service is dead. We all know how to yell “representative” over and over into the voice mail system to eventually get a human, but by the time we hear a live voice, we are already frustrated or worse pissed off.
  • To get problems resolved
    When the desire to improve service strikes an organization they often begin the improvement at the end – where the customer is unhappy. While creating and maintaining processes to handle complaints and resolve them quickly is absolutely critical to service quality, take the time to build or re-engineer ALL of the customer interfacing processes; your complaints will dramatically diminish and customers will have a better attitude toward the organization when and if they have problems.

Processes power the “how to” element of customer service and therefore drive the employee behavior. Well trained, customer-driven employees can’t overcome bad processes, especially when everyone is left to their own devices to make and keep the customer happy. Customers experience inconsistency in the relationship and managers complain of a “cowboy” mentality. Make it easy for your employees to serve your customers and make it easy for your customers to do business with you. Build and re-engineer the relevant process to meet your customer’s expectations.

Back to top ^