More companies are seeking to improve service levels through training and best practices sharing.  I have found that most organizations I have had the privilege to work with often seek the most basic of customer service learnings even when there is an opportunity to be more strategic and customer-centric rather than tactical and competition-focused.   While companies might be aware of the role of service as a strong source of differentiation, only a few have sought to pursue innovation or to even establish a strong service culture that becomes a corporate way of life because of the idea that nice people and the right words are all you need to handle complaints and difficult customers.
I often emphasize that a clear understanding of the brand promise and values of an organization is a prerequisite to delivering excellent service just as one needs to know target customers well to be able to communicate their service promise clearly, which in turn will help manage customer experience design.  A fundamental knowledge of marketing will help frontliners and supervisors develop consistency in delivering service especially when the organization begins to see the bigger picture where service is the integration of operations, marketing, finance and human resource.

Let’s go through a usual service experience where a DSL connection keeps failing or is unusable. You call a service number where an agent gets the details of the problem and guides you through a series of instructions to try to solve the issue. You already know the drill but it doesn’t solve the problem.  Days, weeks, months pass.  Different agents take your calls and promise that a technical crew would visit.  Sometimes, they come almost immediately; sometimes you need to follow up.  When a technician finally comes, he checks the line and tells you something you already know – there is something wrong with your connection.  He says you need to call your electrician because the problem is probably in the wiring.  He rechecks the line outside, then disappears without saying goodbye and that is the last you hear from him.  You call again and the cycle continues.  Even worse is you need to keep paying for the service and would have to make that extra call for reimbursement when the time comes that the service has been restored.

While this is a simplified version of every man’s DSL horror story, we can already predict some issues hounding this situation.

The right hand does not know and does not care what the left hand is doing.  The call center agent just takes calls and the technicians just make those visits.  Who is in charge of providing solutions?  Do all members of this company’s service team know and live their corporate mission of ensuring consistent service quality at all times?  If yes, do they understand it enough that as a solutions-provider, there must be a resolution to every problem or complaint at the fastest possible time?  Many companies subcontract technical and installation services.  Do the subcontractors understand that they are then part of the brand and customer experience?  Do the principals realize that they cannot separate themselves from the subcontractors because the customers do not think that way?

The customer wants solutions as quickly as possible, not just smiles and apologetic words.  This is not just about HR hiring the right people who can appease the irate customer but the right people who can give solutions and follow through.  This is not just about finance seeking the lowest cost to address a complaint, it is about operations ensuring that the right things are done right the first time, all the time.  This is not just about marketing promising features through advertising and other efforts but delivering benefits that will really solve gaps in the market place as identified by customers themselves. 

When a service issue comes up,  go back to your brand promise and values and check if everyone truly understands and abides by them.  Provide channels for feedback to further better the experience.  Know your customers and their expectations from the start.  In other words, why focus on handling complaints and difficult customers when you can focus on doing things right (through efficient operations and effective communications) so you don’t have to deal with complaints afterwards? 

Chiqui Escareal-Go is the CEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.netor call (02) 584-5858 or (02) 412-0034.