The following was written after Cliintel’s CEO, Richard Batenburg spoke at the Management World Conference, held in France. He reflects on an audience member’s comment about customer care not being really all that complicated. So if it’s not all that complicated, then why is it that so many companies struggle to retain their customers? After speaking at the Management World 2010 conference in France, I was struck by the reaction of a Dutch IT engineer in the audience. The conference is presented annually by TM Forum, the world’s leading industry association for information technology in communications and media. We had presented a case study on the impressive customer care results achieved by a large telecommunications company through effective deployment of business intelligence. Waiting his turn in a line of enthusiastic operations executives, this gentleman was puzzled. “Please don’t be offended,” he said, “but what you’re describing isn’t rocket science.” He was right. In fact, customer care is not rocket science – it’s way more complicated! For telecommunications companies delivering 24-hour service to millions of customers across the country, the technical operations function bears no resemblance to NASA mission control. Instead of focusing all energy and resources on a single mission, a large telecomm provider must accomplish half a million customer care missions every week. Unlike true rocket science, the mission isn’t performed by a small, elite corps of highly trained individuals with the “right stuff,” but by tens of thousands of regular folks, week in and week out, year after year after year. These people need simple information to accomplish their missions every day. But many companies fail to provide this basic resource for customer care success. Some even believe that complexity and mystification are impressive. In reality, companies attempting to deliver excellent customer care must provide simple solutions that employees can adopt quickly so they can serve their customers well. It begins with a few simple concepts: Great Customer Care Depends on Everyone Using the Same Yardstick In organizations with large field operations, it’s not unusual for each location to measure its performance a little differently. But unless everyone is held accountable to the same standards, measurement becomes meaningless and customer care suffers. Begin your customer care work by establishing key performance indicators that are measured consistently across the organization. Great Customer Care Depends on Information for All It’s hard to improve productivity if you don’t know how your performance stacks up. Don’t hoard information – spread it around, from CEO to front-line employees. Access to current information makes an especially dramatic difference for work group supervisors, who often don’t have extensive management training. They need hard facts to manage customer care effectively. Constantly updated information on their team’s performance compared to others is the basis of objective discussions that help employees improve customer care steadily and consistently. Great Customer Care Depends on Usability To bring the ocean of data to life for your employees, deliver it through a simple user interface that responds to queries posed in common, “lay person” language. Making it easy and intuitive for the user encourages adoption. Great Customer Care Depends on Carrots, Not Sticks Don’t use business intelligence to punish poor performers. Instead, use it to reward those who beat the standard and motivate the rest. Our client focused on reducing late arrivals for service appointments and reducing repeat service on installations. The business intelligence technology behind their customer care effort is complex, but the point of it is to empower employees to understand and take charge of whatever they control. The system the client now uses pulls data from more than 20 source systems to manage more than two million new records per day and deliver information clearly and simply to 3,000 front-line users serving 25 million customers. Of course, all that behind-the-scenes complexity is transparent to the user. Since deploying business intelligence according to the principles outlined above, the client has seen a steady and continuing improvement in both its service issues. It’s not rocket science, but it is, without question, a real and on-going customer care success. If you’re interested in learning more about business intelligence and customer care, perhaps we can help you out.
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