Many businesses that have historically striven to provide their customers with merely “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; equipment training, field and technical support, Web-enabled self-help; remote diagnostic and predictive support capabilities; professional services, including consulting and application training; services management outsourcing; and a whole variety of other value-added services. More importantly, many are still wondering when their primary suppliers will truly be able to provide them with the levels of “world class” service delivery they now 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, simply stated, 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;
- Identify, 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;
- Determine, 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;
- Define 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;
- Recommend 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
- Provide 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 “tiered” customer service and support portfolio matched directly against the specific needs and requirements of both existing and prospective customers.
- 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, 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; 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. Good products don’t sell themselves anymore than they service and support themselves. All of these functions must first be developed and implemented as part of an overall business plan. However, we believe that the most successful – and profitable – businesses 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, if service is managed basically as a cost center, or if it is still using the same service delivery model it has used for as long as you can remember, it 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; acquire all of the necessary tools, and get all of its resources and processes in place – and, then, roll it out and reap the benefits!