People, Processes and Standout Service Experiences

Customer service is a crucial part of the customer experience. That seems immediately obvious. And customer experience is the big buzzword right now, so companies are going bonkers revamping their customer service operations. Right?

Would that it were so. Almost paradoxically, many businesses are still stuck in the mode of tweaking with utterly defective customer service processes, thus fatally contaminating any attempts to create better customer experiences.

The problem’s root is a classic one that has imploded many a CRM effort in the past: Leadership’s vision of customer experience ends with the conclusion of a sale. After that, leadership views the relationship between buyer and seller not as something that will lead to the next sale, or to enhanced word of mouth, or to any other revenue-generating activity. It’s seen as a cost.

When that mentality takes hold, the idea of ripping out the existing service processes and rebuilding them to suit the customers’ needs seems like just another expense. In reality, it’s a necessity for many companies.

Seize the Opportunity

That actually opens the door for companies that get the link between service and customer experience. It’s a bit sad to ponder, but it’s true: Great service experiences stand out in customers’ minds, partly because there are so few of them. And the opportunity is never greater for creating customer experiences with impact than when something’s gone wrong and you can fix it.

Here are a couple of examples:

Last week, while tooling down the freeway, my Prius’ windshield suffered a direct hit by a pretty large rock. My insurance company arranged for a technician from a glass repair and replacement company to come to my office and try to fix it — the next day.

The technician called a couple of times before arriving, then gave me an assessment of what could happen during the repair (full windshield failure was a possibility!) and explained the warranty. I gave him the go-ahead, and about 20 minutes later the windshield was repaired. The technician gave me the warranty, explained it fully, and thanked me for the business. He was also relentlessly friendly and professional.

Another case: A coworker’s garage door suffered a failure one morning last week; it’s a roll-up door, and when a spring broke it made the 280-pound door virtually immovable, trapping both his cars in the garage.

A call to the service company early in the morning brought out a technician at 7:30 a.m.; because the company kept meticulous customer records, he came equipped with the proper springs for the door, even though it had been purchased by the previous homeowners. My coworker jokingly apologized for the early service call, and the technician answered, “I don’t mind at all! The earlier I start my day, the earlier I get to knock off — so thank you!”

Can’t Have One Without the Other

Both instances have a couple of things in common. First, the service processes were in place to get the job done quickly, effectively and in a timely manner that took the customer into consideration. At no point did “the process” make things difficult for the customer; instead, the processes were developed with consideration for customer-driven variables (like, had I wanted a new windshield vs. a repair).

The second thing these two anecdotes shared is equally important. It’s the attitude of the people providing the service. Unencumbered by broken processes, they were allowed to provide service with a customer-centric attitude — something that your processes can’t provide, but that can destroy the effectiveness of your processes.

Creating a great service experience hinges on both of these things. If the processes are awry and your representative spends time apologizing and trying to work around them, the experience is a failure. If the processes work but the representative isn’t focused on the customer, the experience is ruined. Get both right and you can deliver something special and rare — and have a long-lasting impact on your customer relationships.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at the CRM Outsiders. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

CRM Buyer Channels