For many years, customer service has been an add-on for many business – that (un)necessary cost to keep those pesky customers happy. We even developed metrics that (we think) tell us how well it runs. Call durations, time to answer, first time resolution and our favourite, cost-to-serve are just a few.
Interestingly, though, most customer issues have very little to do with customer service – it has to do with the way business owners and leaders regard customers within their overall strategy. Service is just the outcome of many other strategic choices that span the entire business system. When they disconnect – it breaks – and, at that moment, it is too late. In fact, the marketing machine can keep pursuing new customers, just accelerating the problem. Maybe it is time to step back and reframe the issue.
How Did We End Up Here?
In bygone eras, we have seen the primacy of:
- Production – which gave us economies of scale + mass production
- Engineering + Robotics – which enabled the quality movement
- Marketing – which helped us marry-up products to markets, with the right intention but inside-out execution
- Technology – which gave people without personalities power (SysAdmins – yes you!), enabled automation + lowered the entry bar for many industries
- Finance – which helped businesses focus on short term and brought about cowboy antics that led to global financial crises (GFC)
No wonder businesses have become somewhat disillusioned.
Somewhere along the way, through the ‘flavours of the month’ businesses lost sight of the real reason they even continue to function. It’s now time to reframe what is important in business.
The Ultimate Reason You Are In Business – Your Customers
We’ve previously referred to the ‘margin-service’ model developed by Harvard, that demonstrates the link between happy staff, happy customers and happy business owners.
What’s not explicit in this model is that the customer is really the focal point of the whole system.
By reframing the way you see your business, putting the customer at the heart of everything you do, you can enjoy the same top-line and bottom-line benefits that those ‘in the know’ are already experiencing. These companies know that customer service is the outcome of good strategic choices in people, processes and technology.
So Where Do You Start?
Take a quick look at your business and ask yourself the following:
- Do we have a Customer Strategy in place – beyond just customer service processes?
- Have we captured our customer promises through a Customer Charter that is shared across the business?
- Where does the customer sit in our business? On the outer or the inner?
Answer honestly, and you’re halfway there!