Upping our game with customer service

Overview

We wanted to find a way to give our customers better service, and to make our customer service processes more consistent and efficient.

Our customers are (predominantly London-based) professional services businesses employing up to 200 people.  For some of our customers, it doesn't make financial sense for them to hire their own IT manager, and for others they prefer to focus their energy on their core competences - legal counsel, health provision, retailing and so on.

In either case they want to outsource the running of their IT to a specialist business. They are typically owner-managed businesses demanding high-level and strategic account management.

The challenge

Many months ago, we realised that our customers weren't getting the best possible service from us. The same problems were recurring, causing unnecessary downtime (and expense to us) - and we weren't doing anything systematic or rigorous to prevent them.

We were also failing to make customers' systems really meet their needs - we were guessing what their employees and businesses needed, instead of questioning and listening to them.  We knew we ought to be doing these things, and had gone through the motions of doing them, but they were ad hoc, occasional, unsystematic approaches.

The solution

We needed to make our customer interactions more systematic, effective and measurable. We adapted ideas from the large corporate world, the UK Government's ITIL best practice guides and especially our employees. We now have four main channels:

  1. The most direct is to ask for feedback when we fix a problem - and to act on it. We customised our NetSuite CRM/ERP system to include a feedback form with every case closed. If the feedback is bad, we call the customer straight back, find out the complaint and resolve it.
  2. We worked on preventing problems and downtime. We use low feedback scores from closed cases to change the way we do things and correct poor setups. We have a range of remote management tools adapted from large enterprises to audit each computer every day and detect and fix any early warnings or actual problems before they affect our customers.  We also promoted a support team leader in charge of monitoring the closed cases to find patterns of repetitive faults that might signify a deeper problem.
  3. We made our systems meet the needs of our customers' staff. We used to talk to our main customer contacts about what they needed, but we were missing the end-users' needs, so we sent out 'IT Wish List' wallcharts. We also appointed technical managers for each customer who make regular site visits - not to fix specific problems - but to talk to the staff and scout for niggling problems we're not hearing about.
  4. The final channel (for now) is to make our systems meet the needs of our customers' businesses. We've created formal strategic reviews, with templated questionnaires, where we ask about their future business plans, growth, changes, etc.  From this and our analysis of their systems' performance, we can draw up a technical roadmap and budget.

Key lesson

Don't second guess what the customer and his or her business needs.  Ask questions and start listening.

Top tip

Focus on what really matters to the customer, and drop the things that don't.


Find out more about Conosco

 

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