10 Ways to Improve Customer Service Without Investing in IT

1.  Agree with your customers what they want from you and when they want it. Clarify all the issues as you work through the discussion, ironing out any misunderstandings and highlighting things that are easy to resolve. Then write down a specification. It is amazing what you will find out.

2.  Define what your “purpose” is, your “raison d’etre”, and discuss it with your team. Use it as a mechanism to work out what the best performance measures are. Instead of using internally focused measures, e.g. “QA score”, “service level adherence” or “average handle time” develop measures that relate to your purpose, maybe: “number of customers waiting” or “number of customers wanting work re-done”. Then focus your staff on those measures.

3.  Put up a performance board that shows your measures so everybody can see how you are doing. You will be really clear what is important to you, show everybody how well you are doing and it will focus attention on the real issues.

4.  Hold a daily huddle around your performance board to discuss what needs to be done today. Set up a standing agenda so that you always discuss the right things rather than getting distracted. A possible agenda might be:

  • Work In
  • Work Out
  • Backlog
  • Quality
  • Staffing and Work Load
  • Actions from previous meeting

5.  Hold a monthly review meeting that focuses on the longer-term performance against your measures. Again have a standing agenda. Something like:

  • Last months performance
  • Incidents and fixes
  • Project delivery
  • Actions from previous meeting

6. Create the “one best way”. Most service providers rely on people to deliver the service, and those people invariably do things differently. Set up a group to work out what is the current best way to do the work, write that down as clear work instructions and then train everybody how to do it. To reinforce the activity set up “learning circles” where staff can discuss how they are doing against the standard, what issues they face and what they could do differently. Remember to change the “one best way” when you find a better one.

7. Get a group of staff together, write your purpose on a board then get them to brainstorm all the things that get in the way of delivering that purpose. Work out which of those issues you can fix without IT help (there will be plenty) then fix them.

8. Create a capacity plan (ok you will need a spreadsheet, I bet you have one already) and work out when you aren’t going to have enough staff to meet all of your customer’s requirements. Then decide how you can reduce the pain this is going to cause you and your customers.

9. Pull together a training chart so you are clear who can do what. Link it back to your capacity plan and work out what you need to do to cross skill staff, improve your flexibility and reduce customer service issues.

10. Change the seating arrangement so people who serve the same customer sit in work teams, moving away from departments or “centres of excellence” towards customer groups (front office, back office, technical specialists, quality assurance…) That way you will promote conversation, reduce rework and naturally increase cross skilling. You will also reduce “them and us” silos.

Bonus point:  Challenge your own SLA’s.  If you have a 5 day SLA for something that takes 1/2 an hour to do and always leave it to the last moment you really do need to ask yourself why?  What would have to be true for you to be able to shorten that SLA?

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  1. Hello James

    A sound framework – reasonable and rational. Yet how well this framework works or does not work depends on a number of critical factors:

    a) Who keeps this framework in existence?

    b) How exactly will you ‘get’ the people who need to play this game to play the game full out?

    c) Why (for what reasons) should the people play with this game full out?

    d) Who/how will you keep this game interesting – so that it does not have the same level of interest as watching the same movie for the 20th time?


  2. Hi James,
    Great list but tend to agree with Maz. Perhaps, tweaking number 2 from ‘Define what your “purpose” is, your “raison d’etre”, and discuss it with your team.’ to starting with ‘Ask your team to define what your purpose is……’.


  3. OK James,

    Now that the sensible comments have beeen made, here’s mine! How long can this level of effort be sustained before it becomes obvious that the real answer is to invest in web chat?


  4. Great article, in a recent post, I suggested an overlying “mindset” that although may not be a formal step (as you have detailed) – but more an awareness as we serve our clients.

    An exerpt – “Instantly, as the bill is handed to the clerk, it changes, in the hands of the clerk, it becomes valueless, it is just a piece of paper that will only be stuffed (rather disrespectfully) along with the stacks of money already in the till. It only becomes a number that will be counted at the end of the shift and recorded on a piece of paper for deposit. ”

    I welcome you to read the full article at http://darryls-soapbox.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-to-turn-20-into-20.html

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