If I’m On The Fast Track to Success, Where is My Road Map?

By David Saxby

The recent tragedy from the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., has created a ripple effect in our economy and large-scale layoffs announced since September 11 have softened the American consumer’s attitude toward spending. Now, more than ever, it’s critical that companies have a clear road map of where they’re headed and how they’re going to get there.

Without that road map, the fast track to success can turn into a slow, bumpy ride. There are many things to consider when drawing that map. Here are 11 points to keep in mind.

Develop a system to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty. While business was booming and customers were plentiful, companies didn’t pay much attention if a few clients made the decision to buy elsewhere. Times have changed. Now every consumer matters. Ask your customers to rate their level of satisfaction with hold time, response time, and how they were handled as a customer. Ask your customers what they like and dislike about doing business with you. There aren’t many companies that do that.

How effective is your customer management software? Giga Information Group says half the companies that implement CRM have no way to measure the results. Which system are you using to measure the effectiveness of your CRM? Just because it’s the latest and greatest software doesn’t mean it will help you develop long-term relationships with your customers.

Another important element of your road map is the employees who work to keep your customers buying from you. As people cut back on their spending, the competition to attract customers to the business will increase. It will be up to your employees to exceed the customer’s expectations and enhance customer loyalty through more personalized service.

Do your employees know your company’s customer service and sales goals for the next month and the next year? If the people on your team do not have a clear picture of the company’s objectives, goals, and anticipated outcomes, how can you expect to have everyone united in a common goal?

Practice open-book management. Get every employee involved in running the business. Show your people how to read a profit-and-loss statement. Most people have no idea what it costs to run a company. Help them understand the numbers. Ask them for suggestions on ways to decrease costs, improve profits, and increase sales. Post your weekly and monthly numbers for all to see. Employees are motivated and enthusiastic about reaching goals when they know what the target is.

Ask employees to help create the direction and vision of the company. People want to feel they are part of something and that their contribution has a positive impact on the future of the company. Give them the opportunity to create a mission statement they will support. Ask them to develop their own personal mission statement to support the overall company mission. We all feel more committed when we take ownership in creating our future.

Are you measuring customer-service performance? Ernst and Young’s Customer Connection Solutions Area says that about 80 percent of call centers do not survey customers at all. That’s a mind-boggling number! If you aren’t measuring and monitoring customer service, how do you know if you’re doing a good job? Share the results of that information with your employees. Set up a recognition program to reward them for a job well done. If the results aren’t meeting expectations, provide them with additional training and coaching.

Benchmark the company. Measure those key components that are vital to longevity and growth. Compare yourself to others in your industry. How do your standards measure up against your competition? What improvements can you make to customer service complaints, abandonment rate, hold time, and call transfers? If your vision is to be the premier company in your industry, then establish a plan and set goals that everyone must accomplish.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Statistics on call activities are not the only thing that’s important to company growth. How satisfied are your employees about working for your company? Establish a tracking system to record and classify complaints. That will allow you to analyze complaint data.

Keep your talent. Are you continuing to provide your employees with the advanced skills they need to exceed customer satisfaction? Call Center Careers surveyed call center job seekers to determine what would make their job more enjoyable. Thirty-seven percent said they wanted more opportunity to learn new skills. Most people want to grow and learn in their job environment. Offer them the tools to become better at what they do.

Hire the right people. Six months ago, many call centers would hire anyone that came close to meeting their needs. With the layoffs and downturn in the economy, there is a bigger pool of people to choose from. The question now becomes how do you know which person to hire?

With a clearly defined road map, it’s easier to see where you’re going and how good a job you’re doing at reaching your destination.

David Saxby is President of Measure-X, a training firm specializing in providing training on customer service skills and employee retention. He can be reached at 888-644-5499 or at david@measure-x.com. Check out their website at measure-x.com.

[From Connection Magazine – November 2001]