The HotLine Magazine Archives
For The Profession of Cloud/SaaS Product Support
By Mikael Blaisdell

The phone or chat line is open, and/or the e-mail has been received. The customer is experiencing the effects of an outage, bug, breakdown, failure of the technology they purchased to function as documented or promised — however you want to describe it, the bottom line effect is spelled l-o-s-s. Lost profit, lost opportunity, lost productivity; the waste-meter is ticking.

Will the company’s claim of customer centricity be more than just words? The remaining days of the customer relationship might be numbered; is anyone concerned about the count? Who is responsible and accountable for resolution of the problem, for restoring what was bought and paid for? Who truly owns the problem; whose job is it to authentically engage and see the process through to complete resolution?

The Missing Piece:  An Owner of the Customer Relationship

In most companies and customer contact centers, the ugly, but true answer is: no one. The support/service rep on the other end of the phone may take the details of the complaint and do their best to find a solution, but they don’t “own” the matter. There’s no specific incentive for them to go the extra mile — and several subtle but powerful reasons not to do so. There’s just a customer on the phone with a problem; when they hang up with that one, there’ll be a dozen more calls to follow. The rep’s overall job performance will be measured by several different scales, but there will be a highly significant metric which will not even be mentioned. Adherence to the schedule of the center, to the target Average Handle Time (AHT) for cases, and/or to a certain level of resolving cases during the first contact — these will all be discussed, and rewards given or withheld according to the standings. But not Customer Retention, the keeping of a profitable relationship.

Some companies offer a “Named Rep” or “Technical Account Mgmt.” service option, wherein the customer has the name of a designated employee to call in the support center, or there is a small team with a specified lead person to “keep an eye” on the customer’s account. If a customer gets loudly angry and registers a stiff complaint as they leave, and that complaint specifically addresses a direct failing of the designated employee, there might be consequences for the assigned person. But if the customer simply fails to renew and takes their business elsewhere, no one owns the loss.

For an authentically customer-centric technology company, however, the picture should be very different. Such a company knows the value of the ongoing relationship in very specific financial terms, and manages itself accordingly. There is an owner of the relationship, and customer retention rate is very definitely a major factor in performance reviews.

Any company can claim to be customer centric, and many do. But there is more to being truly customer centric than the claim. If you’re serious about making the transformation, and understand that the work and the effects of owning the customer relationship will be both profound and measurable, give me a call.

January 31, 2008