I heard a story about a CIO who got such great personal service at a Ritz Carlton hotel that he ended up sending his entire IT staff to Ritz Carlton hotel staff customer service training. That is taking the concept of IT being a service organization to a new level!
On the other end of the spectrum, I saw an email from an IT organization of a multi-billion dollar company to all employees that read, “To serve you better, the IT help desk is no longer accepting phone calls. Please use only the email and web interfaces.” My favorite part is the “To serve you better … ” line. The level of service you want to provide should be something you decide on purpose and actually discuss with your staff.
That being said, there is a single strategic decision that any organization needs to make with regard to customer service. Do we want actually provide customer service (Care) or do we want to have a required customer service presence a the lowest possible cost (Cost)?
Once you make the Care or Cost decision, you need to make sure you create a service policy and processes that match the level of service you want to provide. Your service strategy needs to cover three areas: Motivation, Systems, and Authorization and Training.
Motivation – Customer Service Strategies
Care Decision: People believe it is their job to solve the customer’s problem.
Cost Decision: People believe it is their job to close a “trouble ticket”.
As a front-line manager, I have made the mistake of measuring closed tickets. The only thing you really accomplish is for your people to be unhelpful, but more quickly. You need to find a way to measure the customer’s satisfaction with the resolution to the problem. You also need to let your people know that their job is to solve problems, not to “close tickets”. Start by not calling customer problems, “trouble tickets”, call them what they are―“customer problems”.
Systems – Customer Service Strategy
Care Decision: The systems are equipped to allow credits, upgrades, refunds, make long distance phone calls and allow the person to say “yes”.
Cost Decision: The systems are locked down to prevent any cost incursions no matter what the customer’s situation. No reason or business judgment can make a difference. The service person is only able to report, “the system won’t let me do that”.
Look at your systems. Do they allow your people to make choices based on business and customer care judgments? Or are they constrained to allow only a narrow band of service? Do you have an escalation process? Can someone call you if it is really important?
If you are constraining your systems to absolve or prevent people from making judgment calls to provide service, you have made the Cost decision.