“What is the best way to improve customer service?” That is the question successful organizations ask on an ongoing basis. Most take a strategic, top-down approach. They establish clear customer service objectives, assess existing customer journeys, identify existing expectations, identify gaps and opportunities, then create a strategic map for improvement.
It’s a solid process, but can be very time-consuming, and sometimes even counterproductive. Sometimes, when Big Data gets involved, things can get mired in minutia. It’s hard to be innovative when there are too many seemingly competing things to consider. Paralysis by analysis. There is also a risk in relying too much on theory, best practices and modelling. This can result in trying to jam square pegs into round holes.
A Bottom-Up Approach Is Another Way To Improve Customer Service
A different, but very powerful way to approach improving your customer service is to simply begin with one customer, and go from there. Here’s how it works:
1. Select one of your customers. Just one. Start with a smaller one to keep things simple
2. Pull together 4-6 people to create an ‘innovation committee’ of sorts
3. If it is a B2B client, meet with them, either in-person, or over the phone. Learn as much as you can about their business. Try to understand the role your product or service plays in the success of their business – and the success of individuals you deal with.
4. Ask yourselves, “What can we do to improve the experience of this one customer?” Watch how your employees interact with them. Are your employees friendly? Are they proactive? Are they helpful? Do they seem to genuinely care about how satisfied the customer is? Examine how easy you are to do business with. Does this customer have to jump through any hoops? What could you do to make the interaction, faster or more seamless?
5. Ask yourselves, “What can we do to increase the value of our product or service so that we become indispensable to this one customer, and to keep this customer loyal to us?”
Repeat this with a second customer, then with a third. After you have done this a few times, you will begin to see patterns. You will begin to see little things that can be applied on a larger scale. If you involve a lot of people in your company in this exercise, it will begin to send the message through your company of how precious individual relationships with customers are.
The bottom-up approach is less precise and more iterative, but it forces you to see and deal with the nuances that can be lost in a traditional ‘strategic’ approach. You may, ultimately, end up in the same place, but the process helps you build employee engagement and customer focus.
Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group of Companies, an international customer service training and consulting company