Archive | March 2013

Managing in a multi-dimensional environment


Recently in an interesting discussion with a colleague on managing expectations  in a multi-dimensional, layered, stakeholder, location environment ,the most important aspects that came to the fore were:-

Documentation of processes and policies-Processes are optimized when best practices are documented.They do not become person-dependent – any new employee knows how to do the work when responsibility and accountability is clearly assigned.Written changes in procedures and policies reduce ambiguity and increase change control in the environment.Better understanding of processes ensures compliance in service delivery.

Proactive approach to events and incidents-Its very important to have a proactive approach to subsequent event or incidents which has the potential of blowing up in your face.How does one develop a sixth sense to track these damages before it reaches the management, client or customer? To begin with one does need to know the business very well to get the sixth sense in order to evaluate or analyse a particular situation or multiple situations. A particular day needs your attention on multiple levels/layers ,there are certain situations that are common to business while some are special.In order to assess and address daily common situations/causes its very important to start your day by studying the current and historical trends of your line of business and business overall.Appraising oneself  with daily report updates is as critical as serious business acumen sized up with a garnered sixth sense. While all special causes/ situations and actions deployed to handle them should be documented for future references.

It’s particularly important  to proactively monitor both the objective statistical performance and the customers’ subjective perception of service quality. This monitoring is vital because one can only improve what you measure. So service metrics—especially when used in conjunction with service level agreements (SLAs) and/or other benchmarks—are essential for achieving quality and productivity gains.

Additionally,there are proactive monitoring tools which assist in gathering real-time and historical information, identifying patterns of interest, and distributing notifications to individuals, groups, dashboards, or other systems so that issues can be resolved quickly.Over a period of time this will not only build trust in your stakeholders but also a strong belief that they can entrust your organization with more work.

Transparency in contracts and communication-Every SLA is made up of certain, key components. It may vary depending on the company or specific SLA but there are some basics that you should consider for each individual Service Level Agreement.

  • Exact Service(s) Being Provided: This helps eliminate any potential communication mishaps or confusion from the beginning.  If you list the exact services you will be providing with no loopholes, the customer will not expect more than you are going to give them per the SLA.
  • Responsibilities of Both Parties (supplier & customer): Let the customer know what they should expect from you and what you expect from them.  This goes along with the first component but each party needs to communicate effectively from the beginning of their business relationship so no one feels like they’ve been taken advantage of.
  • Timetable for Delivery:  SLA’s will give customers a timetable to let them know how long it will take the service provider to get back with them via phone call, email- whatever your agreed upon method is. For example: “If you submit a help-desk ticket, we will call you no later than 2 business days after it is received”.
  • How Disputes Are Handled: This lets the customer know what your procedure is for any disagreement and how exactly you will approach it. Even if your procedure will vary depending on the dispute, putting a section in your SLA overviewing how disputes are handled, it gives the customer peace of mind.
  • Payment Terms:  Like an apartment lease contract; they let you know when you’re expected to pay and if you don’t pay by that time, what the repercussions will be, the same goes for a SLA

A two-way communication is more helpful in building an environment of continuous improvement, trust and partnership then one way communication. In my experience I have often seen one way communication becoming harbors of distrust and dichotomy. It only instills  a behaviour which is reluctant to change and obey and no-one wants rebels in today’s work environment.Communicating and listening is a behaviour which one unlearns to learn.

Instilling a Win-Win approach-I had attended a workshop on 7 habits of highly effective people very early in my career. Then the approach seemed very easy to understand and follow.But as days and years passed practising this approach in reality was as difficult as taming a bull! It doesn’t come easy.

As rightly said by Stephen Covey- Many people think in terms of either/or: either you’re nice or you’re tough. Win-win requires that you be both. It is a balancing act between courage and consideration. To go for win-win, you not only have to be empathic, but you also have to be confident. You not only have to be considerate and sensitive, you also have to be brave. To do that–to achieve that balance between courage and consideration–is the essence of real maturity and is fundamental to win-win.

It’s very critical to place a maturer and rational leader to co-operate in such an environment.A leader with superficial mature outlook comes to the notice of everyone sooner or later and then lets not forget WYGIWYG( saw it somewhere and found it very catchy and apt) this means What you give is what you get 🙂

Developing a co-model of partnership and co-operation-Why do we need partnering and co-operation in multi dynamic environment that’s because the number of people deployed to manage strategic relationships, partnerships,accounts are limited and even if one would wish for a 48 hour day that will never happen and then there are costs,expectations,reputation involved.Thus, to ensure that maximum is achieved in limited hours ,with maximum output, the energies should be diverted towards building cohesive and conclusive relationships that leads to successful ventures.All of you would agree that this thought and gesture does gets lost somewhere along the way.In our attempt to achieve customer satisfaction and perfection we forget that this is the foundation for faster and quicker results. My suggestion for any 2 organizations entering into a partnership would be to always place two people of equal maturity and  knowledge alongside for higher productivity and better results.

Best Practices,Innovation and Re-engineering-To survive in the multi-client and location environment it’s very critical to build teams and groups which harness the energies of individuals working in silos all over the organization.Timely Recognition for best practise replication,innovation and re-engineering is very important to build up the morale of the employees and create a environment of constant evolvement.Hiring /training of SMEs to drive this excellence will definitely give an extra edge to business.



Customer Retention-A necessary evil?


Why do we need to retain our customers and when is the right time to initiate retention? Most of the times retention activity kickstart when an organization starts observing high percentage of customers moving over to competition or faces periods of extremely poor VOC. Do we need to wait for the inevitable to happen? This will eventually happen in any business cycle when organizations miss out on golden opportunities to:

1) Deliver services as per the TAT/promise made to the customers.

2) Provide shorter turnaround time for customer requests and priority revert for resolving complaints.

3) Use VOC for improving services, setting priorities for customers, employees and business overall.

4) Assess  and address gaps in processes, services, products leading to customer dissatisfaction.

5) Analyze reasons for customer dissatisfaction leading to neutral-poor survey results. 

6) Benchmark internally and externally to remain on top of customer experience score movement and how competition is treating its customers for similar products, services.

7) Tune in marketing and organization strategies with customer wants and requirements.

8) Proactively inform customers of any anomaly in business and ensuring timely compensation in case of any network, service and product outage.

9) Celebrate customer loyalty by inviting and felicitating customers at scheduled customer meet forums.

10) Know the customers better by implementing  KYC and personalizing customers interactions to make them feel special.

11) Provide requisite empowerment to customer service and retention teams across the organization.

12) Invest in applications which support real-time customer feedback and generates analysis.

13) Plan combination of  packs/product/service depending on the customer segment, share of wallet and predictive behaviour modelling.

14) Learn from historical retention and churn patterns.

The tactic should be to acquire-strengthen-retain.

While these might happen in intent the real value of these activities can only and only be extracted when it’s implemented in its “TRUE SENSE”. A lot of these activities get lost in the bureaucratic folds of the organization and that what needs to be completely avoided. These are “CAN DO” critical activities, if these are being avoided and the organization aims for bigger one shot kill for retaining customers,chances are that the customers might question the authenticity of such an approach.Some of them might get retained but not for a very long time. Thus, retention is a continuous activity and cannot be and should not be treated as a one time/once in a while activity.

A lot of organizations have recognized this aspect and created verticals for managing retention but if this vertical does not have the autonomy to co-exist and operate among other departments and verticals then there is nothing very significant coming out of this so-called privileged non empowered group especially when a lot of retention activity has to be proactive. Thus, the group would require to act immediately before the retention moves from a proactive to a reactive mode and that nowadays does not take very long..thanks to social media and massive availability of competitively priced products and services !

To avert the above mentioned scenarios it is imperative to receive immediate alerts of dissatisfied customers:

This will prevent market damage, provide service recovery opportunities damage,provide service recovery opportunities,detect process and services which are flawed.

And now for some statistics:

4% of the dissatisfied customers complain, 91% of the customers will not do business with you,80% will tell 10 people and 20% will tell 20+ more and so on and so forth thus leading to poor VOC.

It can cost 5 times more to buy new customers than retain existing ones.Reducing customer complaints can boost profit by 25% to 85%.

Whats important is to understand the reasons for voluntary and involuntary churn on a regular basis.Accurate reasons for customer discontent or moment of truth can aptly be recorded via instant surveys (Email, SMS ,OBD, IVR) or regular transaction monitoring.A deep dive or 5 why analysis is important to understand the actual cause of discontent and deploy the right retention tool.Organizations could also deploy churn management solutions to study and analyze reasons for customer churn basis change in variables such as usage pattern, time spent with the organization, revenue generated by the customer.

Typical churn reasons could be  due to unsatisfactory customer service leading to repeat calls for –

a) Getting the right solution for the query, request or complaint of the customer and on time resolution.

b) Accurate product or service related information.

Some softer issues could be related to rude behaviour,the way the customer is heard and responded to ,in appropriate answers, inadequate system knowledge,actual problem not captured thus leading to inappropriate resolution of customer issue, non assurance of resolving customer issues, conveying the right communication in times of system errors etc.

While these are some of the issues which might lead to customer churn due to inefficient and ineffective customer service but the root causes run deep.In order to rectify these issues its important to engage the staff in:-

1) Trainings across hierarchy on systems, products, services and processes.Everyone should be trained to have the same understanding across the board. 

2) Empowerment to assist the customer better at all the right layers.

Customer service should be practised from top to bottom management, from backend to front end and from acquisition to retention.The complete customer  life cycle should be customer oriented.

Management processes should be build in such a manner to lead to more favorable outcomes, systems should be integrated and simpler interface should be made available to the customer service staff for speed and efficiency.Policies should be established to improve staff responsiveness to customer needs.

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