At Your Service: 101

Here’s the newsflash:  The notion of a “One Stop Shop” across whole of service delivery  is utter baloney.  Sorry if this shatters anyone’s reality but, contrary to out of date opinions, there is NO one size fits all.

See, it’s like this:  People are complex and unique.  We are individuals.  Our needs are different. You can try to box us up, but it’s inevitable that at some point we’ll explode like a Jack in the Box or, depending on your level of introversion, implode within it, leaving a pile of soot where the person once was.  How this translates is, if customers can opt out they exercise Law of Two Feet (ie they walk away and never use you again), and if they have to use you, they complain, often bitterly and if you refuse to reform – you risk viral dissatisfaction and possibly lose your reputation.

In all business, be it public, not for profit or commercial – the lowest common denominator is People.  The end-user.  Taking a “Lord of the Rings” approach One Service Option to Rule Them All to customer service strategy is most likely to *fail*.

So what else is there?  Well, good news peeps.   The other, more effective and efficient option is to aim to better understand your customers/citizens. What do they want from you? How would they prefer to interface with you? Are there ways you could better reach out to them and connect?  (Key Point:  It’s about THEM, not you).

I realise this is a difficult concept for some and it requires a paradigm shift. There should be a defined service “manifesto” (one of my favourite words at the mo) based on the agreed “persona” (a cocktail of brand/values/ personality) of your organisation. Then everything should be aligned to this.  Persona is “So Hot Right Now” – more on that later.

So I want to share with you another way of thinking of all this based on other’s wisdom as well as my own A-ha! moments along the way.  And it’s easy peasy – no need to invest in or sit in a 2 day training course.

Let’s try this instead:

Customer transactions change depending on the intensity level of the relationship required.  For example,  how many self-service transactions would be/are easily be done in your organisation if you had/have the right online capability and technology?  Where I work – I’d guesstimate no less than 80%.  That’s HUGE – and the best bit about it is, once you set it up, it is uber-efficient and enables workplaces to reallocate resources to where they are needed most.   Forcing people to come in, phone and negotiate, when it is totally unnecessary, is so yesterday.  And it’s labour intensive and completely inefficient.  Many people are time poor (including me – it’s totally obvi that I’d rather be blogging).  Us time poor people don’t want to come in between the hours of 9 am – 5 pm.  Oh no we’re working, picking up the kids, or doing other stuff.  I do most of my shopping, banking, and everything else between the hours of 10 pm and 12 am.  How can you best provide for this?

The “One Stop Shop” realm is the next service transaction type in which customers require minimum assistance to fulfil their enquiry.  This is short, sharp and shiny and the types of enquiries are usually FAQs (frequently asked questions) and routine transactions.  At this stage, enquiries should be able to be resolved at the first point of contact and not need to be redirected to other staff for resolution. With the right technology, skill development and a knowledge base, it should be easy enough to see real improvement.

Unfortunately this is where many service strategies end.  But it’s only half the story and if you miss this, you miss the real gold, this is the real space where customer advocacy can occur (it’s magical).  On we go…

The next transaction level is when customer’s have more reference based enquiries which requires increased expert staff contact, assistance and understanding in order for their enquiry to be fulfilled. It’s in these instances where the customer should be redirected to a more technically expert staff member who can best resolve the enquiry.  These staff should be technically competent, savvy, empathetic and empowered to make decisions. Energy should be invested in developing service charters and standards, developing existing staff and recruiting to meet the “persona” and key competency requirements.  Reassurance – it’s totally okay to forward these enquiries on to the person who can best fulfill the need.  It really is.

Lastly, the most relationship intensive of them all,  is where the service is part of the customer’s life.  It requires the highest level of staff interaction, assistance, understanding and expertise for the transaction to be fulfilled.  This also usually requires the highest level of CRM, usually with the relationship with the customer being ongoing, personal and often considered integral in the customer’s quality of life.

From a channel perspective customers will often prefer to access services  their choice of channel (or medium) ie by phone, face to face, online, in writing (fax, letter, email).  This is easier to do when you understand the true nature of the customer transactions.

But wait, there’s more.  The beauty of the whole lot is that any one customer may, depending on the nature of the transaction, sit in more that one of these categories at any one time.  Lovely.

It could be your organisation has only one, a couple or all of these transaction levels. Whatever the case maybe, customer care is not all that hard.  It’s easy once you understand and accept that one size does not fit all and you focus on their needs first.

If you have more to add, please share – like everything, this is a work in progress and requires the wisdom of others to carry the journey forward.

Meg

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