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Reducing Customer Casualties

November 25, 2009

By Michael B. Tatham, President, The Tatham Group

You would think that a recession might wake organizations up and make them focus on reducing customer casualties.  And many spend a lot of time and money working on this issue.  However, no matter how hard organizations try to ‘create customer focus’ the business is disconnected and therefore is just not capable.  If you keep doing what you’ve always done…

Recently at Tatham we had a piece of equipment producing poor quality output.  After many experiments, the root cause remained elusive.  After diligently explaining the situation to the service department, and all the experiments we had run, they decided to call in a service representative to take a look.

First disconnect: Upon his arrival we had to explain the entire issue over again including the experiments we ran.  Déjà vu?

Second disconnect: Immediately, we were informed that what we were using the machine for was not what it was designed for (even though it was specifically recommended to us by the sales department).  Annoyance.

Third disconnect: He did not have the right tools with him to diagnose the problem.  Frustration.

One might automatically blame the person/people for this disconnect.  However, after doing a little digging it became clear that it is the process/ culture here that needed to be blamed and changed.  After opening up a candid conversation with the service representative he conceded that middle management put rules and regulations in place that did not allow customer feedback to integrate itself into the sales/service process.  Therefore sales and service are not one and the same but rather completely disconnected silos with separate functions.  To the customer it sometimes feels like dealing with two entirely separate companies.  The consequence is customer casualties.

…You’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.  If a bad economy isn’t enough to change a company’s mentality of what good customer service is then what will?  The only way for this company and others to mend these disconnections between departments is to:

  1. Change the mindset from bottom up
  2. Integrate your customers so that the cross functional disconnects become easier to identify and therefore easier to fix

The economy may be slowly recovering but this is not a sign to reorganize and give the illusion of change – customers can see through that.  Pull your customers in and prevent any further casualties.