There is a 501(c)(3) organization called Toastmasters International, in which the traditional “organization chart” was turned upside down a number of years ago. In this organization the person designated as a “leader” actually is placed lower on the chart than the individual member who is learning how to be a leader. The point being made is that leadership is about service. Service is what members want.

It’s the same in business. Service is what customers want. And they want it in a timely way. As part of corporate relationships, it’s helpful to record, acknowledge and review the service that you and others provide to your customers. Leadership within your company includes sharing the service successes you have had with customers as well as the total disasters. (Yes, there is always the client you inherited from someone else who also did not want that client. )

There is an opportunity for corporate change when a company decides to record, acknowledge and review service. It takes well-articulated, written, spoken and total ongoing commitment from management that records of service will be only used in a constructive, problem-solving manner. I once had a manager who used a trouble-ticket module as a way to punish employees who did not “measure up” to his ineffectively-communicated expectations. When it was known that that practice was in place, records of customer service became less than candid.

Features of a service component of your customer relationship management solution can include tracking who took the call, who is assigned to work on the customer’s request, whether the request needs to be escalated to a different level, what the resolution of the call is (even if the resolution turns out to be “overcome by events” and an eventual analysis of the service call.

One benefit to your organization of doing business this way are that now you can begin to make specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic operational decisions regarding allocation of corporate resources. Another is that you may discover and reward the people-handling skills of someone who has not necessarily appeared on the corporate stage as a star—but who really is. That’s the one who is keeping customers coming back again…and again…and again.
This content is the first in a series of six topics on benefits and features of a great customer relationship management solution. The others will include opportunities, projects, campaigns, leads and corporate knowledge base.


Self Service–or Square Wheels Service?

Some years ago, one of my favorite grocery chains introduced self-service checkout.Confident that I could master anything computer, I marched right up to the checkout. There were at least five people ahead of me just going about their pre-holiday business, scanning and bagging their groceries—and swiping their credit cards at the far left of the counter ahead of the space to place groceries.

Then it was my turn. Suddenly, self-confidence became self-flagelation. The more I tried, the worse it got. The user interface made no sense to me. A growing line of tired shoppers behind me made matters worse. I considered dumping the cart and leaving. By the time a junior checker showed up to rescue me, I had decided I would never go through that store’s self-service again. And I have not.

Weeks later, I finally figured out what went wrong. The user interface paradigm was wrong for me.

The FILE/OPEN user interface paradigm that I as a computer user had come to know quite well was not there. Instead, a proprietary and arcane interface all but defeated me. I decided that interface had been designed by a committee dedicated to protecting the jobs of the checkers. I also deeply suspected that those shoppers who zoomed right through self-help spent far less time at a Windows-based computer than I.

Fortunately, another store in the same chain implemented another solution to the problem.

That store simply distributed hand scanners and a supply of grocery bags to each customer at the entrance of the store. I simply scanned each item before placing it in the grocery bag. By
the time I reached the cashier, all I had to do was give the hand scanner to the checker, swipe my credit card on another scanner and VOILA! I was a happy customer on my way out the door.

My takeaway from this experience became obvious. It’s not “build it and they will come.” It’s “know your customer.” It’s not about my brand or the benefits I think my product or service can bring to the customer. It’s learning from my customer what my customer genuinely needs.