Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts

Curtis Franklin Jr., Executive Editor | 10/14/2013 | 37 comments

Curtis Franklin Jr.
Let's talk about 10 percent. I've decided that this is the difference between excellence and disappointment.

I had a lot of time to think about this magical 10 percent while I was attending the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo in Orlando, Fla., last week. When you're at any one of these huge conferences, you get to see the convergence of many systems and individuals charged with providing services to the public, in the form of hotel and conference center staff, event organizers, area restaurants, and nearby entertainment venues. None of these observations are unique to the Gartner Symposium itself; these could have occurred at any conference or trade show for any industry in any location around the world.

Some of the customer interactions I observed during my time in Orlando appeared to have customers feeling absolutely delighted (frequently without regard to whether they'd left the exchange with the good or service originally intended). Other exchanges I witnessed resulted in an angry, frustrated customer -- even if they left with the purchase they wanted to make. What was the difference?

It was surprising to learn that it wasn't really the "big things" that made a crucial difference between a positive experience and a negative one. Oh, sure, customers want to leave an exchange having received the product or service they wanted. But they really wanted other things from the experience as well -- things that generally don't cost much money to provide. These things live in the critical 10 percent of the transaction.

CIOs and other IT leaders could learn some crucial lessons from the customer service exchanges I witnessed during my time in Orlando. Applying these basic customer service lessons could pay dividends when questions are asked about the value that IT returns to the company. Let's look at some of the things customers want, and how IT can make these things happen within their own organizations, for their own customers.

Customers want you to keep promises
Much of this simple statement falls into the basics of business, but there's an extra 10 percent that they want from you: They want you to keep promises in ways that don't turn the obligations into the customers' problems.

Allow me a simple example. The hotel where I was staying touted a breakfast option in which a cook would take your order and cook eggs to your specifications (the rest of the breakfast was a buffet). That's wonderful, but when the customer has to go find the cook, bring them back to the breakfast area, and then talk about eggs, the experience has lost much of its convenience -- and all of its ability to provide customer delight. The hotel should have staffed the breakfast in a way that made it easy (and delightful) for the customer.

What's the IT lesson here? When you promise the lines of business at your company that you'll provide support for their applications, your commitment should require as little effort as possible from the line-of-business employees (your customers). And, you should make sure that your IT staff understands the concept and fully buys into its implementation.

Customers want to feel that you're happy to provide service
I can't make it any simpler: A smile goes a long way. You might be engaged in a serious business endeavor, but when your IT team is working with an internal customer, that customer should feel that it's a pleasure to help them. No snide comments, no heavy sighs, no unnecessary delays, and no rolling eyes should be tolerated by management (or the customer). I observed customer representatives in theme parks use a smile and a pleasant word to turn tired visitors into happy guests. Your employees can do the same for the organization.

Customers want to know you're working for them
A few weeks ago, the Disney folks changed their rules and policies regarding disabled guests and the way they access rides. It was a response to a genuine problem, but it's creating complications for some guests whose lives were made easier by the earlier system. I watched a mother burst into tears at a customer service desk when the new rules were explained -- she was not sure how she would be able to see that her child could do any of the activities under the new system. The guest services person responded with sympathetic voice and facial expression, explained how best to use the new system -- and then ran off to get special tickets that would help alleviate the problem on several attractions. By the time the mother left the desk, she was smiling and looking forward to the day.

There were essentially no costs associated with this employee's actions. The result was that the guest was convinced that the employee had her best interest in mind. In actuality, it also served the company well since it created a happy (and probably loyal) customer.

IT employees who put in an extra 10 percent can convince internal customers that they're considered colleagues, not troublesome enemies, and that IT is working on their behalf.

Ten percent. It's not all that much. It's all the difference when it comes to providing service to customers. What does your IT department do to provide the extra 10 percent? Have you seen this in action? I'd love to hear your stories -- share them in the comments field below.

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shakeeb   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/31/2013 10:31:03 AM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
"Customers want to know you're working for them" this is very important. The success of any business will depend on customers and to what extent they are happy about the service you provide. 
shakeeb   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/30/2013 11:40:34 AM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
@ Pedro smile itself will make the customer happy. At the same time the customer service agent should have courtesy towards their customers.
shakeeb   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/30/2013 11:39:52 AM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
Interesting article. Customer service counts a lot being it internal or external customers. Therefore it is always better to keep them satisfied with their needs. 
PamR   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/20/2013 8:44:14 PM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
Customer service reps too often don't seem to have the power to actually solve problems. They too often seem to be quoting policy or telling you what can't be done. I don't know if that's because company management doesn't want to get things resolved or that the reps have such terrible jobs that they in effect default to a state of helplessness. But I agree--when you, as a customer, find someone who's clearly going beyond what his or her colleagues are doing, make sure you tell them you recognize that.
Nomi   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/20/2013 1:26:16 PM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
@freespiritny25 you are right there. I feel that the good and kind behaviour to the reps mostly give them confidence and they work out of turn to fix your problem. It happens almost as a universal truth as these reps are not our paid employees so they will not listen to any harsh dealings. Be nice and see the wonders.
Marif   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/20/2013 12:50:37 PM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
Yes freespiritny25 no one likes to wait long for the provider to the fix problem. I think if someone from the customer service comes to your house it gives a positive impression to the customer that at least the company is seriously looking into your issue. Otherwise it is very hard to spent time after registering your request at the call center and waiting for the response.
stotheco   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/20/2013 12:04:53 PM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
This is the ideal. You should be appreciative when you get the service that you want. Unfortunately, not everyone is like this or are as courteous as they should be. A shame.
DBK   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/20/2013 10:50:11 AM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
@freespirtyny25 - I agree with you that if you want good service then as a customer you need to set the providers expectation and create and environement where that provider can meet your needs.  However as a service provider we should already have a good understanding of the cu stomers expectation and be prepared to work in a difficult situation and then have teh training or personal tools to convert that customer from unfriendly to happy and satisfied.  That is what makes good customer service.  The reality is that there are good customers and there are bad customers.  There are good service providers and there are bad service providers and what need to do is find good clients and good providers and develop alignement for a win win situation.
freespiritny25   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/19/2013 8:07:19 PM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
I think it's about finding the right balance: approachable, eager to please, informative, patient, and not too pushy.
freespiritny25   Gartner Symposium CIO Lessons: Customer Service Counts   10/19/2013 8:00:58 PM
Re: You need a commitment from both sides
@DBK: I think thar clients should be more appreciative to a customer service rep that is efficient, friendly, and helpful. Sometimes customers might actually get better service if they are grateful and kind.
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