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Improving customer service


Improving customer service

September 6, 2012

I have personally seen organizations that have used initiatives to drive service excellence and have created for example 98% customer satisfaction as a result. In each case it has been about creating a systematic approach. Starting with listening to the customer via surveys and focus groups to understand customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction, analyzing data and once they understood the situation using key quality teams, tools and techniques to step by step create improvement and measure and monitor progress.  Some have used PDCA some DMAIC to help structure their improvement teams efforts.

In some cases it has involved driving down defects, focusing on the time to resolve customer issues and in others working closely with sub-contractors as teams to focus on the customer.  Of course the problem is there is no silver bullet, no quick solution it’s about a companywide effort from strategy through training to implementation to achieving the results.

Here are some examples of micro issues that I have seen used to help improve customer service.

  • CARING. Ensuring that the company does not have a culture of ‘processing’ the customer!
  • Creating a focus on front line staff who for customers ARE the company! This includes increasing training, giving them more authority, support and recognition
  • Celebrating victories and those going above and beyond
  • Establishing requirements and standards, for example what are your customer needs and expectations? You cannot meet or exceed them if you don’t understand them. By the way exceeding expectations is NOT about adding non-value added ‘fluff’ for the customer.
  • Establish best in class benchmarked metrics such as response times and completion times to be tracked
  • 24/7 assistance this might be an emergency number
  • Online support and FAQs, this can save your staffs time for quickly answered questions.
  • Creating focus groups
  • Establishing a list of customer ‘touch points’, where the customer interacts with company staff, and so opportunities to connect better with the customer
  • Creating overviews of the process for the customer so they understand what will happen
  • Ensuring centralized profiles or customer records are available so that key information is available and consistent regardless of which member of the company is now talking to the customer
  • A culture of corrective and preventive action so that lessons are learnt and mistakes and problems to not continue to happen and not ‘managing the customer’
  • Ensuring that staff including support staff meet customers this can help with the connection and understanding that what they do DOES impact the customer
  • Providing education opportunities for customers
  • Sharing best practices internally i.e. a website and external benchmarking visits to generate ideas. These visits need to be structured to ensure they are not ‘day trips’!
  • Creating personal webpages for customers where videos, photos and other updates are available on their projects
Written By

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering, and an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality and has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners, a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition, and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. He has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

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