By Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM)
Many businesses that have historically striven to provide their customers with satisfactory levels of customer service and support have now begun to move closer to a "world class" service delivery model in order to provide their customers with total support beyond merely product acquisition. Today's customers are looking well beyond the product, and are focusing just as much on other pre- and post-sales support offerings such as implementation and installation; field and technical support, customer portal-enabled self-help, and remote systems support capabilities; professional services, including consulting and application training; services management outsourcing; and a whole variety of other value-added services. Many customers are left wondering when their primary suppliers will truly be able to provide them with the levels of "world-class" service delivery they require.
In fact, we believe that now represents a critical time for virtually every business to update, or refine, its strategic plan for moving closer to a "world-class" service delivery model. This plan may encompass many components, including:
- Reassessing the company’s existing customer service and support mission, goals and objectives, capabilities, resources, and infrastructure;
- Identifying and prioritizing the existing and emerging customer/market demands, needs, requirements, expectations, and preferences for customer service and technical support, across all classifications of the company’s market base; and
- Developing specific recommendations for action with respect to the engineering/reengineering of the existing services organization and processes in an effort to arm the company with a more competitive — and effective — “world-class” service and support portfolio.
In more specific terms, the overall goals and objectives of such a planning effort should be to:
- Examine, analyze, and assess the company’s service and support mission with respect to its desired ability to ultimately provide customers with a full range of service and support offerings that will position the company as a “world class” product and services provider;
- , from management’s perspective, what the most important elements of a “world class” service operation would be expected to comprise, and within what framework it would envision such an operation to be created and managed;
- , from the customers’ perspectives, where the company should direct its primary attention with respect to creating a more customer-focused service and support organization and service delivery infrastructure;
- how the desired service delivery organization should be structured in terms of human resources, roles, responsibilities, and functions; organizational components and structural hierarchy; internal vs. outside components (i.e., in-house vs. outsource); strategic partnering and channel alliances; management and staff training; and other key related areas;
- how the optimal service operation should be structured in terms of defining and establishing the appropriate service operations, processes, and procedures; logistics and resource management controls; operating targets and guidelines; management control and performance monitoring parameters; and other key related areas; and
- specific recommendations for the establishment of a more "flexible" services organization and operational infrastructure that addresses all key elements consistent with the delivery of “world-class” service and support to the company’s present and projected marketplace.
The specific areas where the services and support strategic marketing plan should focus include:
- Identification of customer needs and requirements for “world-class” service - including recommended goals, targets, and desired service parameters based both on input/feedback gathered from existing and potential customers, as well as from an assessment/evaluation of other state-of-the-art service organizations/operations in the general marketplace.
- Composition of the recommended customer service and support portfolio - including the development and packaging of a tailored customer service and support portfolio matched directly against the specific needs and requirements of both existing and prospective customers (i.e., remote diagnostics/predictive diagnostics or standard services, etc.).
- Service operation structure and processes - including recommended service and support operations supporting the overall service portfolio, focusing on customer service, call handling, help desk, technical support, on-site support, order entry, call logging, workforce management, administrative, and other processes (to be determined).
- Determination of key performance indicators - including identification and recommendations for the selection of the most appropriate industry metrics, and guidelines for measuring and tracking service performance over time.
- Definition of service organization, functions, and responsibilities - including recommendations for the general structure, roles, and responsibilities of the service organization and infrastructure; inter- and intra-departmental roles and responsibilities; organization functions and activities; updated job descriptions; in-house vs. outsourcing decisions; channel management; etc.
- Selection of operational tools - including recommendations for the most effective use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools, services management and CRM software, and other segment-specific support tools, etc.
- Formalization of the implementation plan - In-house: including system selection, investment plan, organization development, training, etc.; and outsourcing: including strategic partner selection criteria, performance measurement/management requirements; hybrid workforce management; and general timeframe and rollout plan.
Providing customers with “world-class” customer service and support is generally not achievable without a well thought out and orchestrated “world-class” planning effort. All of these functions must first be developed and implemented as part of an overall business plan.
However, we also believe that the most successful — and profitable — organizations are those that have managed to effectively deal with both sides of the issue - that is, they know how to sell, and they are prepared to service and support the total needs and requirements of their constituent market base. And, by doing it on a "world-class" basis, they can benefit from one of the most effective competitive differentiators.
If your organization still operates primarily as a manufacturing- or product-focused business, or if it is still using the same service delivery model it has used for as long as you can remember, you may be totally missing the boat. Regardless of what product lines your organization has historically manufactured, sold, or distributed, one thing remains certain — your customers want "world-class" service and support, and the only way you will be able to provide them with what they want is to plan for it; implement an effective service delivery strategy; get all of the necessary tools, resources, and processes in place; and roll it on out.
Bill Pollock is President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the independent research analyst and consulting firm he founded in 1992. Bill is a prolific author and speaker on all things service, and a long-time contributor to Field Service Digital. For more information, Bill may be reached at (610) 399-9717, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill’s blog is accessible at www.PollockOnService.com and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/SFGOnService.