Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Balancing Customer Service Initiatives and Infrastructure Health

Every once in a while you see an organization that makes improving customer service a top priority. All well and good - up to a point. It takes time, energy, resources, and dollars to effectively change corporate culture. Sometimes the cost grows in ways that may not be immediately apparent, leading to an erosion of assets that underpin products and services. If the foundation isn’t solid then at some point the emphasis on customer service, interaction, and communication is going to fail. I may be impressed with your customer service system, but if the product or service quality does not meet my expectations then someone else will be getting my business.

Granted, it is a balancing act. Resources are always limited and tough decisions often have to be made. However, sacrificing infrastructure that supports core business functions to a marginal or dangerous level is not a wise move. Penalties in the form of cost escalations, performance and quality losses, early equipment replacement and other symptoms will simply burden the budget and organization. If these are allowed to continue then instead of improving customer service you will have, in effect, cut the legs out from under it.

One approach to maintaining a proper allocation of resources to support new initiatives and existing operations is to focus on overall customer satisfaction. Measuring satisfaction across a range of domains, including internal processes and customers, provides a more complete picture of your overall health, including customer service. The goal here is to gain an understanding of relationships between infrastructure and products/services, and how changes in one affect the other.

In short, when you are busy focusing on the details of customer service initiatives, don’t forget to keep your eye on the big picture.

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