Recently, I had the pleasure of leading a service excellence workshop for the CEO and leadership team of a national payroll outsourcing company. As a company devoted to providing the best customer service possible, the CEO and his team had come together to identify the biggest obstacles that they faced in delivering exceptional service. As the day progressed, in large and small group discussions, one obstacle continually surfaced – and resurfaced – over and over again:
From the CEO at the top of the organization, right down to the front line customer service representatives, everyone agreed that dealing with email prevented them from providing the excellent service their customers expected. And here’s why:
• Reading, responding to and managing the overwhelming volume of internal emails that were generated daily from different departments – or even from team-members located one or two cubicles away – took valuable time away from doing the actual work to provide the services customers wanted.
• The seemingly irresistible temptation of opening, reading and beginning to work on new, incoming emails as soon as they “popped up” at the bottom of the computer screen (“Squirrel!”) caused the work that was previously being worked on to wait to be finished. And even worse, sometimes accuracy errors occurred from switching back and forth between work items.
• Although customers emailed regularly with questions and service requests, email responses from customer service representatives didn’t seem to provide the resolution customers wanted…in fact, more often than not, when a customer’s question was answered by email, it generated even more questions…and even more emails!
By the end of the day, in order to focus on and support service excellence, the CEO and his leadership team decided to create an ‘email strategy’:
• Email “pop ups” would be turned off to minimize the urge to immediately open and begin work on something new while completing other work. This would improve flow and accuracy and reduce interruptions and waiting for customers. Team members could check email between completed work items.
• Internal communications would take place, whenever possible, by talking with people in person! If an in-person conversation wasn’t feasible, then a phone call or IM could be used. This would reduce the volume of email for all while helping build stronger internal relationships.
• Finally, unless a client stated that they only wanted email responses, customer service representatives would respond to email questions by picking up the telephone and calling the customer. Not only would this provide the customer with a quicker response to their question, but it would give them the opportunity to experience the company’s “friendly and knowledgeable service” first-hand. Service reps would be able to hear the tone of their customer’s voice, answer any follow up questions and make sure that customers were satisfied right then and there! No need to wait for a long string of emails!
So far, everyone is very happy with the new email strategy. Distractions are reduced, the team’s ability to get to the real, value-added work their customers want has increased, and, perhaps, most importantly, deeper connections both internally and externally have been created. Customers are enjoying the opportunity to experience “friendly and knowledgeable service”, the value that they expect, and the reason that they chose this particular company as their service provider.
And that is what Lean for service excellence is all about: finding ways to remove the particular obstacles that are preventing your company from delivering the value that your customers want in a way that creates connections: real, personal, human connections, in simple and direct ways so that we can truly understand and deliver what our customers want and need.
If you’d like help figuring out and eliminating the obstacles that are preventing your company from delivery service excellence to your particular customers, please feel free to give me, Karyn Ross, a call at 773-257-8357!