Make it better
In my last post, I described ten ways we can make the customer experience better.
Here they are again, framed from the customer’s point of view.
- You’re quick.
- You are easy to deal with.
- You get it right.
- You care if something isn’t right.
- You prove that I can trust you.
- You trust me.
- You are honest about what you can’t do.
- You act in my interests.
- You are professional.
- You are honourable.
That’s a big list.
Let’s get real. We can’t fix everything.
But we do need to make things better. Customers expect it. Our competitors are doing it. We need to act quickly, sustainably and now.
And here’s the thing. It costs very little to make each of these better. Without investing in technology. Without employing expensive consultants.
It just requires our attention.
Our people are already busy. They have to pay attention to the day job and to keep the lights on. Most folk (and most organisations) can pay attention to no more than two or three things over and above this.
The trick is to choose the things to which we pay attention.
Here is an approach I have found useful. I use it to make a difference quickly for customers. I find it especially helpful when I don’t want to wait for the promised new IT system to fix everything (which it can’t) or for the consultants to transform our processes for the better (which they don’t) or for the programme office to get its act together to deliver its big ‘transformation programme’ (which it won’t).
We talk to our customers. Better yet, we have our people (you know, the folk who actually do stuff for customers) talk to them.
We find out from our customers the things they would like us do better. We prompt them with questions drafted from the set above. Keep the questions as open and simple as possible. We’ll get a big list.
It’ll feel bad to see all the things we do badly for customers.
But that’s ok. Because now we can start to make things better.
We talk to our people who are responsible for the things that customers would like us to get better. Have them pick one or two or three things from the list. No more than three. Picking one or two is fine.
The criteria for they should use to pick out things from the list are these:
- We can make it better.
- We can make it better in ways that make a noticeable difference to the customer.
- We can make it better within 30 days
- We can make sure it stays better
Once they have made their choice, we stand back and give our people license to do what they need to do. We help them when they need it, especially to remove sources of delay. Speed is the key, because we want to pay attention to this to make sure it gets better, and to keep paying attention is hard.
After thirty days, we (or better, the people doing the work) check back with customers about the difference they see. We share this with everyone.
We test with our people that they can sustain the improvements they have made. The only real test is this question: if all our people changed jobs or moved on and were replaced, how do we know that our service would stay improved? If we can’t be sure, then let’s fix it so that we can be sure.
Go back to the list. Ask customers again.
Repeat the next month. Pay attention to the new thing.
Repeat, repeat and repeat again.
Watch things get massively better for your customers. Let’s give it a go.
What I’m saying here is not original. It’s just a version of continuous improvement, or Kaizen, or Agile or Lean.
Nor is it intellectually difficult.
And it won’t fix everything (so yes, sometimes, we do need that big IT system or a process redesign, but less often than we think).
But over (say) a year, it will make a huge difference.
And that’s what it’s all about.
So come on. Let’s make things better for our customers.
(Image credit: USAF photo by Kurt Gibbons III)