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One of my pet peeves related to customer care is the [untrue] notion that you can hire a customer service department, buy some tools, and whiteboard a process to deliver service.  That won’t work better than superficially.

Here are a list of necessary (but not sufficient in and of themselves) tools to deliver service.  Alone, none can deliver exceptional service.

  • People – Hiring the right people is certainly important.  Without them, you won’t be able to execute a plan.  But it’s Step 2.  (See Step 1 below.)
  • Processes – Dell found out the hard way that processes alone won’t work.  They set up call centers offshore (more on this topic another day) and were barraged by unhappy customers.  Fact is, you may save money (short term) through lower labor costs.  But you may lose customers too.  Is it an acceptable risk?  You decide.  But at least be aware of the risk and take steps to mitigate.
  • Tools/Technology – Tools adoption is a pet peeve within a pet peeve.  Gartner says that 50% of all IT software becomes shelfware.  That statement alone suggests that Tools/Technology are not (and cannot be) the holy grail of customer service.

Put them together and you are headed in the right direction.  BUT, having these things is not enough to deliver exceptional service, what will?

The first thing, Step 1, to address customer service excellence is a customer service culture.  With the right culture, EVERYTHING else is possible.  With the wrong culture, NOTHING can possibly succeed.

Several discussions of culture reach a conclusion that goes something like this “culture trumps strategy”.  True!  Because bad culture beats down and demoralizes the best people, the most refined process, and the flashiest software packages.

So whether you are considering building a new service model (or company for that matter), or if you’re thinking about how to fix or energize an existing customer service organization, the key lies in establishing and maintaining the right culture.

The pivot point for great service is culture.  Get culture right; you have a chance.  Miss it; you’ll fail, or have one helluva rough road.

Good People Aren’t Good Enough
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