Getting Back to Basics

When I first meet with a client organization's executives to discuss a planned customer service initiative, it's not uncommon for the group to be overwhelmed with the scope of work to be done. I often see the "deer in the headlights" looks on their faces as the leaders wonder what they've gotten themselves into.

The problem is that most people (including me) tend to overcomplicate things by thinking that all of the elements of the initiative need to be done right now. They don't. Like Stephen Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we need to put first things first.

And the first thing is to agree to keep things simple. If you overcomplicate a service initiative (which is easy to do) or try to rush things, you're setting yourself and your organization up for burnout and disappointment.

One way to keep things simple and on track is to continually reflect on what the service initiative is all about. It's like taking a step back and taking a few deep breaths as you put everything into perspective.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, I'd like to provide a perspective of customer service from a customer's point of view. While simple, I think you'll find that this perspective applies to pretty much any organization's customers when you get to the essence of what they want from you.

 As your customer, what do I want from you?

1. I want you to know what you're doing.

2. I want you to be efficient while you're doing it.

3. I want you to be nice to me.

Really, that's it. Peeling away all of the stuff that confuses the issue, these are things I want as a customer. Let's look at each one (again, from the customer's perspective):

Know What You're Doing - I expect you to do the job right. And if for some reason you do the job wrong, I expect you to fix it with little or no inconvenience to me. I expect that you've had the proper training and that you can accurately answer my questions (or find someone who can). I expect you to do what you said you would do.

Be Efficient - My time is valuable. I shouldn't have to put up with processes that are designed for your convenience at the expense of mine. Please understand that it's inconvenient for me to be on hold for 20 minutes as I listen to a recording that says my call is important. Leaving me sitting in the waiting room 30 minutes past my appointment time just isn't right. And waiting at home for a delivery that might occur sometime between noon and 5 PM takes me away from my job. I understand that things don't always go as planned, but I want to see a sense of urgency if something does go wrong.

Be Nice to Me - I'm giving you (or already have given you) my hard-earned money. Please act like you appreciate it. It just takes a smile or sincere tone of voice to show you care. I feel much better when I deal with an employee who clearly enjoys his or her job and seems happy that I'm there.

I know that this view of customer service is stripped down to its essence, and it's meant to be. I'd ask you to look at your operation through the lens of these three elements and I think you'll find that the service behaviors you're trying to achieve fit nicely in this stripped down view.

Whether you're at the beginning of a service improvement initiative when everything appears daunting, or you're in the middle of an initiative that's gotten confusing or bogged down, it helps to be reminded of what you're trying to accomplish and to weed out the stuff that takes you off target. Getting back to the essence of the initiative is re-energizing and makes it all seem doable.