Monday, April 20, 2009

Improving Customer Service Through Training

A poor customer service experience this weekend reminded me of something we were asked to write for Chief Learning Officer Magazine a year or so ago. Here's the exec summary:

Most of us can cite examples of a positive customer service experience that left us with the satisfaction and knowledge that we had made the right purchase decision. That the company understood us – and perhaps that as a result of the experience, we had an even greater affinity with the product or service we had purchased. All of us can cite examples where poor customer service left us gasping for air – exasperated by the arrogance and ignorance of the company we were dealing with, left wondering how can they “do business that way?” Many of us probably took the step to tell a family member or friend about the negative experience and in today’s environment of real-time information flow where the web can serve as a force multiplier for bad news, we might have sent an email to the company or even blogged about it to anyone who would listen.

When clients need support or assistance, an organization’s ability to address and resolve those matters consistently and in a quality manner is a key component in the total value delivered to a client and to the retention of an increasingly fickle client base. Whether your clients are consumers or businesses or both, your "brand" and the value behind it, is highly dependent not only on what you deliver, but also on the post-sales experience.

Customer issues should be viewed and treated as opportunities. Although customer service organizations (call centers) are frequently treated as cost centers, there are some compelling arguments that support increased investment in improving the customer service function to help them do just that. One way in particular to gain improvement is through increased investment in training and decision/performance support with learning and training managers taking the lead. Simply put, well-executed training and performance support provides the basis to make a positive impact on many of the key benefits that come with good customer service.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Soccer, Business and Making Decisions

Read no further if you don't like sports and soccer metaphors in particular.

Mike Prokopeak, the editorial director for Chief Learning Officer magazine wrote an April 2009 executive briefing piece titled, "Goooaaal! Decision-Making Lessons from Soccer." The article features 2005 research on the effectiveness of soccer goal keepers blocking penalty kicks by diving left or right vs. remaining in the center of the goal -- akin to doing nothing. The report shows statistical evidence that by doing nothing, goal keepers in fact increase their chance of stopping the penalty kick.

Here's a link to the 27 page research.

Furthermore the conclusion of the report and of Graham Jones, a sports psychologist from the consulting company called Lane4 (interviewed for the article) is that just like goal keepers, today's executives may be doing things just for the sake of doing things.

Well as a career soccer player, I couldn't resist digging into the research further, because from my perspective, there are too many elements to consider in the fierce competition of a soccer match that a bunch of scientists could reduce it to an algorithm. I also couldn't accept that a subject matter expert such as a goal keeper couldn't be right in trying to anticipate the direction of a penalty kick when trying to stop a it. The kicker has to choose a side, why not the keeper?

Turns out I was sort of right. In more recent research scientists showed that goal keepers typically stand just off center of the just a few centimeters...thereby trying to influence the side to which the penalty kick taker will shoot the ball...and apparently in the majority of cases, the penalty kick taker does in fact shoot to the side of the goal with more space. By taking action the keeper does influence the outcome.

You see, just as in stopping penalty kicks, in business, sometimes making a move, even a subtle one (such as standing a little left or right of center) can increase your chances of success in the long run. Accepting the status quo without trying something just doesn't make sense.