How Can You Tell if You Are Improving Your Service Level?

A fair question.

I was once told that we should only judge the effectiveness of something by the results. Sometimes harsh, always fair. Thank you Brian Klemmer for that. If someone writes a book, and no one buys it, then is it a good book? I love how Robert Kiyosaki explains this one when he states that one can be a “best writing” author or a “best selling” author . . . but that the first in no way guarantees the second and the second can and does happen without the first.

So I recently wrote that everyone should start their own business. This will involve both sales and service, as well as some marketing. It is fairly rare to find all three of these skills in the same person; so one should expect to have a few things to learn as they move through this process. A sales and marketing expert paired with someone who is technically proficient at a skill can be a very effective combination. Those who are technical in nature often try to do it all by themselves, and those who are sales and marketing types often partner up because they know they need the technical skills. Or they can learn them depending on what the business does.

Either way and whether there is an individual, partnership or group formed, we would all typically seek to improve the business . . . to continue to hone what we do so that we can be more efficient. More efficiency means more profit in most businesses, with the reminder that without sales and marketing there will not be any profit.

So what is the best way to improve? Here is the separation. The people who best know how we can improve are the customers, and yet getting this information out of them can be a challenge. Let me ask this question first. Let’s say that you run a business that goes to someone’s home and provides a service. Let’s say that you believe the appt is going very well, and when it is done you are convinced that it went well. In this situation would you take any follow up actions with the customer to see what they thought? If you did, and they were not as impressed as you thought, then are you going to get upset about it?

Question 2. If the customer says that you did a great job, like they have never seen anyone do it better, then what will you do to improve your service level as a result of that feedback? It is a very easy question to answer . . . you will do nothing to improve your service level because there is no actionable feedback. So your service level will remain the same, and worse yet you might start to think that you are all that when you may not be for the next customer.

I appreciate positive feedback as much as the next person, but no one built a great service business based on only positive feedback, and you can take that to the bank.

If I can get constructive criticism from a customer I consider that a huge win. If a customer tells me that they hated my service and will never use me again (yes that has in fact happened to me), then I will do everything I can to find out why, and the only way to do that is to see if you can get the upset customer to tell you. I have worked with more than 500 different clients as I have run Awesome Computer Help and I can tell looking backwards who the customers were that did not appreciate the service as much as I thought, because they are the ones that suddenly disappear. Trying to obtain feedback from these folks is a real challenge, but if somehow I could I would consider it a huge win.

It is true that customers who are upset do not always like to share. It is also true that many customers are afraid to give constructive criticism because in the past it has come back to bite them. This has happened to me before. Once I used an internal service desk for support at a company that I used to work for. They did a fair job but it could have been better and so when they survey came I did not mark it perfect and I explained how it could have been better. The reaction that I got from that was very surprising to me . . . how dare I mark less then perfect when I work for the company!!! They went back to my boss at the company and told them to make sure I knew how things worked around there. Well I got that message loud and clear . . . this was a service business that had no interest in improving, and I was not surprised to learn later that it is a shrinking service business. Some stuff like that can be hidden behind a good name, but not as much as people think. That is a service business in decline, and the people responsible for that attitude should be dismissed immediately before they can do more damage to the companies brand.

So lets say on the same service call business that I mentioned earlier that the customer told you that you were way too slow and they did not think the service was a good value. Now what will you do to improve? Well you now have OPTIONS. This concern could be addressed in several ways, none of which are likely to be wrong. I would advise to not get worked up about it, and to remember that it is possible that these ideas are unique to this customer. So I am saying do not over-react, but learn what can be learned.

I have had cases where my first visit with a customer did not go as well as I thought it did. I learned this later when I did follow up contact. Folks who did not like your service are much slower to respond, but they are the most important folks to hear from. In some cases I have to make multiple follow up attempts. I have been able to save customer relationships because I was able to learn what the issues were and then address them. We do warranty service from time to time as appropriate, and we do not charge for warranty service.

So the natural thing to do is to get upset if someone dings your service. It is easy to do, but it does not lead to improvement. It just leads to stress.

The enlightened thing to do in the same situation is to ask for more information on what went wrong. The more info that can be obtained is equal to the more service level improvement that can be done. Many customers will eventually provide this information if you can convince them that you want it.

So this brings me to my greatest fear, and it is that I am messing up bad while thinking I am doing well. Unless we hear from the customer’s we cannot rule out that this is happening in our own business. Please do everything that you can to enable your customers to have a safe and protected voice. . . the result will be a better service level which will ultimately lead to more income.

With all of that said, if you are one of my customers, and I have messed up, please tell me about it and we will make it right. I am someone who cares what the customers think, and I am someone who considers it a big win if I can get constructive criticism from a customer. You will not get the reacton from me that I got from that former employer I mentioned. You will get a huge Thank You from me.

Joseph
Founder and Chief Techincian – Awesome Computer Help

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