Cross posted at LinkedIn.
When I meet executives in companies who have asked me to look at their customer service operations, I often metaphorically describe customer services as the exhaust port of the organisational vehicle. It is the place where all of the hidden metal shavings, plaque deposits, and smoke exits the vehicle.
When an organisation is doing what it does, it burns the fuel of innovation, design, product deployment, delivery, etc. However, it cannot do this without some residue. This may take the form of physical residue in the form of a coal company or battery manufacturer, but it also happens in “cleaner” or virtual industries. Even if you are operating like a Hydrogen car, you are still producing water from the exhaust. Not a problem for most, but a customer that must be watertight might have a problem.
More common, though, is the organisation that is selling a “beta” version of a virtual product without preparing their customers the inevitable flaws or simply launching a product that has not been well thought out. Sometimes, it is bad packaging or poor instructions. Sometimes the exhaust itself creates more exhaust. How about jammed telephone lines or bad self-service websites? The customer service exhaust profile of an organisation like this will be dirty and strewn with unhappy customers. The vehicular equivalent of a rusted out 1970s banger running on leaded gasoline with the main seal about to blow. Not a nice picture to imagine, especially when you view yourself as socially responsible in other ways. In fact, that is another salient point. Can you really be a good corporate citizen if you are willingly not fixing customer service problems?
This scenario is not always disastrous. If the dirty exhaust is being examined and improvements are demonstrably built into the system, the exhaust may be excused, especially if it had been predicted and explained as the necessary by-product of innovation. However, if customers a being fed a diet of dirty exhaust and expected to deal with it themselves, one is probably inviting failure.
To continue the analogy, the good news is that there are ways to use one’s customer service exhaust to improve the organisation’s operations. Whether you are at the stage of introducing a catalytic converter or converting to a hybrid technology or wanting to turbocharge innovation, measuring your customer service emissions are the place to start.
My next posts will examine some of the components used to curtail the exhaust and even begin using it to improve the vehicle’s performance.
Are you a customer service polluter or a clean burner?