Spotting Holes in Your Customer Service

Look for these three signs that your customers could be happier.

From global manufacturing giants to small-scale retail stores, every company wants to satisfy its customers. Yet, of the 66 percent of global consumers who stopped doing business with companies due to poor service in 2013, 82 percent felt those companies could have done something to prevent them from switching, according to Accenture.

But how can you tell where the customer experience is lacking? Watch for these warning signs that poor processes are hurting service delivery—and costing your organization customers.

1. Failed Transmissions

Without the right processes in place, poor collaboration can wreak havoc on customer service. If information isn’t shared systematically across the enterprise, teams can lose time scrambling to fill in the blanks. And delayed delivery often leads to unhappy clients.

“When you’re dealing with time-sensitive compliance documents in a high-pressure environment, you can’t afford to miss a beat.”

“When you’re dealing with time-sensitive compliance documents in a high-pressure environment, you can’t afford to miss a beat,” says Dave Pellegrini, team leader, customer service at publishing company RR Donnelley, a communications company in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

To keep the company on track, each of Pellegrini’s three shifts of project leaders spend the last 30 minutes of their shift setting up the incoming shift for success.

This means providing all the information—from client emails to project status documents—that the next shift will need to meet or exceed client expectations. To secure buy-in, Mr. Pellegrini frequently reviews the process with his teams and uses their feedback to make improvements.

“Since our strategy includes strong attention to detail and setting clear expectations, everyone is on the same page based on clear communications within the team,” he says.

2. Easy Answers

It’s an ugly reality: When confronted with a problem, people typically gravitate toward the quickest or most cost-effective solution.

“There’s a tendency to choose solutions based on cost rather than customer experience,” says Ed Carter, senior service delivery manager at IT consultancy Capgemini, London, England.

If an organization doesn’t follow the proper processes for solving problems and managing change, individual or departmental priorities can outrank customer expectations. Yet understanding customer needs—not just performance targets—is necessary for teams to maintain strong relationships with their customers.

“An organization has to start with who they want to be to their customers,” says Mike Garner, chief customer officer at Cicero Inc., an analytics provider for customer service contact centers, Cary, North Carolina, USA. “If you want to be easy to work with, you have to look at problems and solutions through a customer effort lens.”  

3. Radio Silence

While customer complaints are the most obvious sign that service is slipping, many unhappy customers go unnoticed. Unless an organization is proactive about soliciting and measuring customer feedback, even clear complaints can remain unheard—until it’s too late.

“Customer complaints have a bow-wave effect, where the volume may rise without anyone noticing, until the ship is taking on water,” Mr. Carter says.

Even in countries where organizations aren’t allowed to record service calls, organizations can collect aggregated data that provides useful information about the end-user experience, Mr. Garner says. For example, organizations can see how quickly call-center employees fill out different forms while helping customers. If one segment seems to take longer than others, it’s time to look for ways to streamline the process.

“I can’t imagine running any service-focused organization without a strategy to measure customer effort,” he says.

To learn more about how your organization can improve its service delivery strategy, try CMMI’s online assessment tool. By understanding where your organization has the most room to improve, you can plug holes in the customer service strategy—before they’re too big to repair.

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