Customer Service Tips From My New Book
My new (actually first) book – Managing Oracle Fusion Applications – has now been published, hurrah, and is available from all well-known online retailers (Amazon, B&N etc). Clearly it’s main focus is on one specific enterprise software application product set, however hidden in the 352 pages are customer service principles that can be applied in many areas and therefore fit nicely here.
1. Provide a clear interface with your customers, both in-front and behind you. In the book I discuss how an Application Administrator should set-up both standard interaction processes and easy-to-use reporting dashboards with all parties they engage with. The easier it is to get things done, and to see what is going on, the happier everyone usually is.
2. Encourage Work Transparency. In order for end users and other departments to understand, appreciate, and respect the work involved in managing enterprise software applications they have to be able to see that work. Similarly, customer satisfaction is all based on expectations, and if your customer can see you making significant efforts to meet those expectations the happier they will be, especially when the end result is a bit slow to materialize.
3. Create a Clear and Complete Plan. In the book I cover what I call the five tenets of Enterprise Application Management; Reliability, Availability, Performance, Optimization, and Governance. This covers all angles and requirements and allows a complete work and reporting structure to be built. Similarly customer engagement requires a complete plan, so that services on offer can really be delivered effectively and those all important expectations met.
4. Set Targets and Guidelines. For each of the tenets above the book contains a toolbox of features, functions, and capabilities that can be used to set and deliver on predefined targets, including items like Service Level Agreements that might include a monthly check that the application available 99.9% of the time. The old adage “cannot manage what you cannot measure” is harder to apply in the soft world of customer satisfaction, but that’s no excuse not to try. Surveys, polls, questionnaires, interviews, and feedback forms all allow collection of at least some level of feedback on how well things are going.
5. Adhere To Standards. There is a comprehensive suite of Governance, Risk, and Compliance product features included in the Enterprise Application and we look at how this can significantly help identify and avoid real problems. Similarly in Customer Service delivery it makes sense to understand what competitors and similar companies are delivering and what is generally considered good practice by customers. The use of specialist agencies that focus on in customer service delivery can help with this, such as the UK’s Institute of Customer Service.
6. Out-Perform and Improve. Again as mentioned above, the book considers obvious areas such as Performance, Availability, and Reliability as key application management factors to plan for, however also emphasizes Optimization so that not only are we meeting the current needs but also continuously improving so that service expectations are actually exceeded.
7. Identify and Know How To Use Appropriate Tooling. Indeed the whole reason for writing the book is to help companies get the most out of their Enterprise Software Application suite, and to do that they need to understand a great many tools, utilities, and complex moving parts. Service delivery operations are no different, and a conscious effort must be made to instrument appropriate tooling and ensure those involved know exactly how to get the best from it.
8. Be Positive but Plan for Contingency and Risk Mitigation. Clearly managing software applications is first focused on making sure the system is available and working for end users, that much is obvious, however even with the best will in the world at some point something bad is going to occur and its what happens next (long outage vs invisible fail-over) is what highlights great system management. The same applies to service delivery, sometimes things go wrong and when that happens it’s an opportunity to win customer loyalty by showing how slick your company operation is even in the most difficult circumstances.
Try reviewing your customer service delivery operations against these and I’d be amazed if there isn’t something you could improve upon.