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Going The Extra Mile May Not Be That Far – improving customer service

customer service

As a frequent traveller I spend a lot of time at airports in the lounge of my airline of choice.

On a recent trip I visited a lounge that I rarely visit. On entering the lounge the whole atmosphere felt different. One lounge is usually much like another and not much to tell them apart. This one felt very different.

I settled down and observed what was going on.

Usually the staff collecting dirty glasses and plates just pick up the dirty dishes and put them on a trolley and return to the kitchen area. There is little interaction with the customer.

At this lounge, the staff came around with trays to collect the used glasses and plates and whilst putting them on the tray asked the customer if they would like another drink. If the answer were affirmative, they would return with the drinks and continue to collect the dirty dishes. This ‘new’ service did not appear to be creating any additional work for staff as they returned the dirty dishes to a collection area near the kitchen, which was also next to the bar area, where they collected the requested drinks.

I also watched the bar staff as they served drinks and rather than just serve the customer with what they asked for they made suggestions and recommendations and engaged them in conversations about their day. For example, one customer asked for a particular type of whiskey and the barman suggested that it be served with a splash of cool spring water so that the flavours and aromas would begin to emerge and the chlorine from tap water would not ruin the drink. He was also elaborating on the selection of wines when simply asked for a “white wine”.

It was interesting to observe the difference these ‘little’ changes had made. The staff seemed much happier in their work and there were a lot more smiles and engagement with the customers, the atmosphere felt much more relaxed and customers were certainly enjoying their stay much more. The absence of collection trolleys made for a much more peaceful experience.

I do not know whether this was a local initiative or an airline-wide one to be rolled out across all lounges. I guess I will find out when I jump on an airplane again next week.

As I thought about what a big difference this small change had made, it led me to thinking that we should do more things like this in IT.

But where would we start?

I think there a number of places and it is all part of continual service improvement. But those improvements, like in the airline experience, do not have to be big ones to have a large and positive impact.

Listen to the customers! Ask the customers what changes they would like to see and identify the ones that could be quick wins? When a customer rings the Service Desk, ask them at the end of the call if there was anything that could have been done differently to improve their customer experience.

Observe your own customer service experience. When you feel you have had a good customer experience what was it that made the difference for you? Can something similar be achieved in IT?

When did you deliver good customer service? Think about a time when you got great feedback from a customer because you did something different. What was it that you did and could this be something that everyone starts to do?

Involve everybody. Create working parties that meet on a regular basis to discuss what improvements could be made? Collect ideas from customers and staff through online suggestion boxes.

Some of the improvements could be simple things like when a customer calls the Service Desk the Service Desk Analyst alerts them to any upcoming planned outages that may impact them. It could be that when a technician physically attends a location that he or she asks whether there are any other issues currently outstanding that could be addressed. Of course there should be a ticket in the system but depending on priorities and workload it could make sense for the issue to be addressed whilst the technician is in situ.

Does the customer hate having to chase up tickets through the online portal? Why doesn’t a technician that has visited a customer leave a card with the ticket number and Service Desk number so that if the issue occurs again the customer can call the Service Desk, and quote the ticket number.

Not all of these might be suitable for your organisation. They are just ideas to get you thinking.

There are a lot more simple and small improvements other than these that I am sure you can think of for your organisation.

As you start to examine your good customer service delivered and your good customer service received, and engage customers and staff in an improvement programme, you could come up with some small gems of improvement that make a big impact just like the airline did.

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