Magazine Article | December 28, 2011

What Should Your New Year's Resolution Be? Build A Business Case For Service Transformation

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By John Carroll, president and founder, The Service Council,,

You may know your service operation could improve, but selling service transformation internally can be a challenge — here are some tips.

Wikipedia defines a New Year’s resolution as, “a commitment that an individual [or group] makes to one or more personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit. This lifestyle change is generally interpreted as advantageous.” Have you already set your New Year’s resolution? Regardless, when it comes to business, you ought to consider adding a service-transformation initiative to the top of the list.

However, prioritizing a service-transformation initiative to the top of the IT wish list can be a formidable challenge. Over the previous six months, we’ve polled and interviewed our advisory board on what their priorities are for 2012 and just what they’ve done to advance their service-transformation initiatives. Below are a few noteworthy recommendations, compiling the input from the collective group.

Clearly State Your Service- Transformation Objectives
A good starting point to put you in a position to receive IT budget approval is the ability to present empirical data displaying areas of weakness and needed improvement. Highlighting outcomes of business improvements that have been tested by peer organizations and having a proven track record for success in IT initiatives also help.

Bob Johnson, chief service and IT officer at Sprint, suggests organizing your business into compartments. “We organized the customer satisfaction process into two areas, which helped us focus on both strengths and weaknesses in our customer care operation. These two areas were upstream, which focused on reducing incoming call volume by eliminating errors and issues that drive calls to customer care, and downstream, which focused on enhancing quality in call handling and agent performance,” Johnson explains. Managing expectations and creating sustainable change once approved are additional key components to a successful service transformation initiative.

Accurately Measure Existing KPIs
Which way is up? Transparency across the service business requires Superman, X-ray-like vision. A great deal of effort is required to consolidate data from multiple disparate systems and obtain an accurate report from the field and customer care teams and the many channel networks that impact your customer’s experience. But doing so is very important, as told by Stu Reed, the president of Sears Home Services.

“Gathering real-time customer feedback and performing temperature checks and post-service surveys drive our recovery engagement and continuous-improvement performance management,” Reed says. “Sears has deployed a series of customer feedback programs, including its temperature survey that is currently rolled out nationally across all of Home Services, which has captured responses from 18.5 million customers annually. The results enable rapid response to customer feedback.”

Align The Needs Of Various Stakeholders
Creating groundswell from other line-of-business executives is vital. How does service affect sales, positively or negatively? How does service affect product development, positively or negatively? Create a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship with cross-functional peers to build a business case beyond service improvement. Understand the cost of making the investment versus not making the investment.

“When your boss — the worldwide CEO of a global manufacturer — holds a Ph.D. in economics, you quickly realize that financial and economic indicators are going to play a large role in the company’s global strategy,” notes Tim Saur, SVP of Durst Phototechnik AG.

Are You Listening?
Listen to the market and the many factors that are creating pressure. What are your customers saying? Where is the customer experience lacking? Discuss with your teams (not just management but all the way down to the field engineer or customer care agent level, which is closest to the customer) what your customers are saying. “Our customers help us define what good customer service is, and we respond accordingly,” adds Reed.

Validate your decisions and proposed service transformation initiatives based on the trials and tribulations of your peers. “To be able to leverage the knowledge and experience of other service executives is a powerful and potent resource,” says Tom Schlick, VP of global service of ACCO Brands.