Enterprises, large and small, require continuous IT operations to manage their financing, manufacturing, back-room operations, supply chains, and customer sales transactions.
However, the technology customers count on to keep their businesses running and the economy growing is increasingly at risk and the operational challenges more complicated. IT systems are increasingly complex, integrated, and interconnected resulting in more applications being designated as business-critical. As a result, companies have lower thresholds for risk tolerance.
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Keeping customers’ technology assetts protected, available, and performing requires not only state-of-the-art products, but also an operationally efficient customer support organization. In today’s worldwide economy, a responsive customer support operation can help strengthen relationships with customers and drive higher revenues.
Often, however, customer support’s contribution in driving business success is not fully recognized. A company that provides enterprise products and services must be able to meet its customer’s service level requirements for business-critical systems.
There are myriad activities and services that a customer support organization can perform to simultanously mitigate their customer’s IT risk while making a tangible business impact within their own company. One of the fundamental practices to accomplish this mission is by creating a closed customer feedback loop.
By following industry-recognized best practices for continously listening and responding to customers, companies can develop their customer support organizaiton into a tangible business asset both internally and externally:
The first step in the process is to listen to your customers. This should encompass both formal or informal channels as well as a mix of both quantitative and qualitative data to be able to fully analyze customer’s perception of a business’s products and services.
Formal methods include surveys and focus groups. Most companies have adopted the practice of sending out specific “transaction surveys” within a day of the closure of a service ticket while the memory of the transaction is fresh in the mind of the customer, creating an opportunity to obtain the most accurate information.
To ensure the objectivity and integrity of the information, the formal data-gathering systems, such as surveys and focus groups, should be administered by a third party.
While direct conversations with key customers may be non-scientific, it provides rich insights and anecdotal evidence. This informal practice brings quantitative results to life by attaching real-life scenarios and specific customers to survey results.
The goal of the first round of information collection is to establish a baseline for measuring future growth. A baseline will assist any business in measuring future improvement, or regression, as well as a yardstick for the value of information as a business asset.
Once the data has been collected, the next step is to figure out what customers are trying to tell the business. By analyzing the quantitative and qualitative data, businesses can begin to develop an understanding of how well they are performing.
A statistical analysis of quantitative data should be tabulated and translated to develop key performance indicators (KPI’s) and identify actionable items. Customer comments provide clues and often the solutions to action items.
Do not underestimate the strength of the qualitative data gathered. While numbers may be manipulated to fit a particular interpretation, the customer’s voice is usually the most accurate explanation.