SERVICE MANAGEMENT IS AN EARLY WARNING SYSTEM
Canaries have long been part of coal mining lore for their ability to detect and signal – by succumbing to an early lack of oxygen – minute traces of toxic gases before they pose a lethal threat to miners.
Similarly – and thankfully with less tragic consequences – Service Management professionals can help avert the gradual or even sudden attrition of customers who have found the service dished out by suppliers nothing less than toxic.
Consumers continue to vote with their feet at the rate of two out of three for reasons having only to do with their suppliers’ poor service. Still, the early warning system capability that is afforded by the Service Management organization is unrecognized – or ignored – by today’s executive leadership.
As we have discussed elsewhere, Service Management refers to those principles and practices that help solidify customer relationships through excellence in service across all functions of the organization.
Service Management focuses on fostering the following:
- Customer Satisfaction
- Customer Loyalty
The ultimate goal of the practice of Service Management is to ensure customer retention. And, this goal has been found to be best in the hands of a trained, qualified, and empowered front line professional staff whose mission it is to serve as the customer’s advocate. So why is it that the organization best equipped to detect and signal the impending economic distress of lost customers is largely ignored?
POWER TO THE FRONT LINE
I’m convinced that the genesis of the problem is a leadership who fails to act on a deep down belief in the potential of every person to contribute to the good of the organization by serving the needs of the customer and by sounding an alarm when the service delivered by the organization does not live up to expectations. This means giving service professionals the power to act, and the chance to experiment and of necessity to fail. The freedom to make decisions must be pushed down to the point where the customer most often interacts with the organization.
To empower the workforce, leaders have to redefine their own risk-taking behavior. Errors of empowered employees have to be identified, not for punitive actions, but for the opportunity to learn to do better in the future.
Given the variety and situational considerations of service encounters, it is impossible to anticipate each encounter and prescribe proper behavior. In fact, the greater the uncertainty of the task at hand, the more freedom the front line should be given to act. To be sure, an effective Service Management function can ill afford to be passive in the face of negligent customer service practices. On the contrary, the Service Management professional must be given wide berth to take positive, urgent, and remedial action; to err, if necessary, but always on behalf of the customer.
Service Management workers on the front line, by the very nature of their work and proximity to the customer, have the potential to become the “canary in the mine”. Acting prudently, without shrill but with urgency the frontline can sound the alarm before customer grievances turn into a meltdown. This potential, however, remains largely unfulfilled to the detriment of both businesses and customers alike.