Monday, December 27, 2004

How dummies can win over a difficult customer

On the website, there’s an article adapted from their book Customer Service for Dummies about “Winning over a Difficult Customer”.

The basic steps are:

  1. Let the customer vent.
  2. Avoid getting trapped in a negative filter.
  3. Express empathy to the customer.
  4. Begin active problem solving.
  5. Mutually agree on the solution.
  6. Follow up.

The complete article is in this link.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

What is "Service Quality"?

Let’s start with the definition of “Quality” according to the American Society for Quality (ASQ):

Based on customers’ perceptions of a product’s design and how well the design matches the original specifications.

However, in services, the customer compares what he/she received against a “personal” set of standards, which may be quite different from the specifications of the provider.

Therefore, we can define Service Quality as:

The difference between the customer’s expectations of a service, and his/her perception of the obtained service.

Why “perception of the obtained service”?

From the customer perspective, perception equals reality. Also, each customer has different expectations for the same service, even if it comes from the same vendor. These expectations are influenced by many factors, and most of them are not controllable by the service provider, and this is further complicated by the intangible nature of services.

What we need to know is:

  • what customers expect from our service,
  • how to influence those expectations,
  • how to verify if the perceived service exceeds those expectations
  • and how to provide quality service consistently

This will give us plenty to write about in this blog.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

US Airways employees calling in sick (as in "sick and tired")

Apparently, some US Airways employees decided to give their company a Christmas present: call in sick in record numbers over the Christmas weekend (US Airways press release). To make things worse, winter weather compounded the mess for airlines and their passengers.

This is another example on how low morale can severely affect the operations of a company.

How are your employees really feeling? Is it impacting the service that your customers get?

Happy Holidays

Friday, December 24, 2004

Some holiday shopping empathy

So you feel tired after hitting the malls for holiday shopping?

Read about how the day is for a Best Buy employee in this Washington Post front-page article titled “Service in a Store Stocked With Stress” (free registration required).

Merry Xmas

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Yours truly?

“Awards-for-loyalty” programs: Are they worth the trouble? Matt Hassan from CapGemini has a good point: in a recent commentary in CRM Magazine he mentions that “customers who stay for rewards leave for rewards”, and that companies should give incentives to customers according to their “inherent loyalty propensity”, as the most loyal customers are the ones that have a higher implicit vendor switching cost, and therefore do not require additional motivation to stay.

We should add something: if a group of customers doesn’t go with the competition because of the cost of switching, it does not mean they don’t deserve good service.

Remember the days before cell phone number portability?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Lean and Green

Booz Allen Hamilton’s strategy+business website (registration required) recently published an article about the lessons that service companies can learn from “lean” manufacturing operations.

The article (The Lean, Green Service Machine, by Narayan Nallicheri, T. Curt Bailey, and J. Scott Cade) develops these four main ideas:

  • Improve operations and reduce costs by engineering business processes for speed and quality.
  • Separate common from unique product characteristics to extract the most value from commoditized processes and to maximize the gains from variety.
  • Adopt tailored business streams to segment simple and complex offerings and to industrialize the routine while saving more flexible processes for products targeted at the few customers who demand them (and will pay for them)
  • Push decision making and responsibility to frontline managers who interact directly with customers.

Well, we should check what is being done right: productivity in US manufacturing companies has almost tripled since 1970, but for service providers, it has only increased by 40%.

Quite a long way to go.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Attention Shoppers: Your profile and behavior being analyzed at aisle five

From the online edition of the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required): video cameras being used to analyze customer behavior.
Why bother your customers with surveys and interviews? Just have computers analyze what the hidden cameras see about your customers' browsing and buying habits.
Ethical implications (and late-night talk-show jokes) aside, there are companies dedicated to “video mining” of retail shoppers, like Advanced Interfaces and ShopperTrak.

Will this translate to better service, lower process, or more options?

In the meantime, I’ll try to keep my sunglasses on while I shop.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Customer Mania! Hear it from Mr. Ken Blanchard himself

Remember Ken Blanchard’s best-seller The One Minute Manager from quite a few years ago? Well, this management guru is still writing business books. His latest is Customer Mania! : It's Never Too Late to Build a Customer-Focused Company

In this book, Mr. Blanchard narrates how Yum! Brands (better known by their KFC and Pizza Hut brands, among others) developed and implemented their effort to become a more customer-centered company.

Would you like to hear about it from Mr. Blanchard himself? In the Microsoft LiveMeeting website, there’s the archive of a one-hour web seminar about this book. Plenty to learn from it, even if you don’t lead a multi-national corporation.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The name "servimétrica"

The name (brand maybe?) “servimétrica” comes from two words:

  1. Servi: from “Service”
  2. Métrica: from “Metrics” or “to measure”

The main idea is, you cannot improve service if you cannot measure it first.

To measure quality in a product is straightforward: you compare it against a set of standards.

In services, because they are intangibles the “standard” varies with each person. What may be “great” service for one customer could be “bad” service from another customer’s point of view.

That’s why improving service quality make such a exciting topic (ok… for me at least).

Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


After blogging about customer service quality in Spanish for a while, I've decided to start a blog in English about the same subject. Each blog will be somewhat independent of each other, but will cover basically the same topic: how to measure and how to improve the quality of customer service and experience.

Almost every day, we experience at least one interaction with a service provider (maybe with a retailer, a phone company, an airline) that leaves us wondering if the businesses we deal with really know what we expect from them. And the worst thing is, every time it gets worse! Great customer service (whatever it means, we'll deal with that later) is the exception, and not the rule. Luckily for us, this gives us a lot to blog about.

Welcome, and enjoy the ride!