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How, When, and Who: The 3 Key Pieces to Customer Service

Once you are clear about the value that you bring to your customers and clients (see the post True Value: What Business are You Really In?), or the WHAT, the next step is understanding the HOW, WHEN, and WHO of delivering it.

There are two elements of HOW we deliver our product or service:

  1. The actual process of a transaction. For example, one client’s customer process includes a written estimate, followed by a customer purchase order, parts’ order placement, parts are received, and finally, the work is scheduled and completed.
  2. The second HOW element is the way in which we do it. For example, a local car dealership has recently launched their “Negotiation Free” buying process. The dealership has defined how the transaction will happen not only for potential customers but also for employees. This piece of “HOW” determines in large part about HOW the transaction will feel to your customers and clients. Unless you define it for your employees, they will create their own system, and it may not be what you want. Think of a business visit you’ve made where you were treated poorly by an employee with poor customer service skills; I’m confident that is not how the owner would like it done.

The second element of product/service delivery systems is the WHEN. You may be shaking your head and thinking “whenever the customer walks through my door!” Stop and think about it, though, and you will realize that the transaction has several components, and they typically occur in a routine sequence. In the best scenario, you have designed a system so that transaction steps occur at the optimum point of time. Examples of WHEN that should be defined are:

  • Response to initial inquiry in service industries;
  • Your “Welcome”, offers of help, and general chatter in a consumer retail setting;
  • Length of time between a customer proposal and follow-up communication.

Much of the WHEN can be automated through email systems and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Learn the capabilities that exist and use them.

Finally, there is the WHO of delivering your product/service – who does what when? Defining the key roles in this process is critical. This cuts down on confusion, and staff members taking on tasks that they should not: everyone stays in their lane, and tasks are not duplicated. It allows your team to focus on their given workload and become the subject-matter experts in their given area. This is especially key for your sales and customer support staff. A client recently discovered that when his administrative assistant made the proposal follow-up phone call, instead of the business owner, the acceptance rate shot through the roof. His customers most likely feel less “sold to” when his assistant calls to follow-up.

When these three elements – HOW, WHEN and WHO – are clearly defined from your customers’ perspective and are put into a system, customers will be treated consistently well by you and your staff, and in turn, increasing the likelihood that they will return.

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Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.