Stuart McKechnie, Author, The 4 Dimensions of Total Customer Service
The Customer Challenge is real, ongoing and is the dominant strategic issue to be managed. Our business world presents opportunities, threats, demands and influences that have characteristics that continue to change. We share our business world with others, including customers. It offers buying opportunities to customers and selling opportunities to suppliers. Customers and suppliers shouldn’t be worlds apart. Proactive management of business world guides organisational adaptation and change towards achieving strategic intent and meeting the customer challenge. Social, economic, political and legal factors induce change. The impact of technological change is an obvious ongoing aspect of business world change. Remote buying, worldwide ease of access to goods and services , the explosion of smartphones, tablets, apps and mobile access to the retail shopping world has opened up a mobile commerce revolution. Point-and-Pay has been described as the next step in the evolution of print media, Near Field technology allows customers to pay for purchases in store using their Smartphone and Adwords enable suppliers to track and respond to customer buying habits. For some suppliers form and function are now key decision making areas. For example, Newsweek, established in 1933, moved into a digital only environment at the end of 2012. It was the end of an era. People were laid off and print editions ceased. The ‘Function’ continues as Newsweek Global and the ‘Form’ is now a subscription based app.
How organisations manage their ‘FT’ index is important. By FT, I mean ‘Futuristic Thinking’ assessed on a self rating scale of one to ten. We use it to rate engagement in activities which explore the possibilities of providing future products and services that are not obvious or may not even appear to be achievable. Harnessing creativity, innovation and change is part of the customer challenge, involves stepping into the future and is a feature of forward thinking organisations.
The customer challenge is a strategic issue .It goes beyond touchpoint management and the customer surface arena typified by the programmed and sometimes offhand ‘have a nice day’. Touchpoint management is crucial to the customer ‘feel good factor’ but it’s not enough. I suggest that customers be positioned at the heart of strategic intent. Customers represent the end game and it requires an approach that positions the ‘total organisation’ in engaging in constructive collaborative customer focused behaviour.
I suggest that the concept of ‘Total Customer Service’ should be the driving value stance which brings together collaborative competence within and across all organisation functions and boundaries. It requires the alignment of purpose, structure and culture .It involves the organisation in embracing a customer focused culture where the organisation directs its commitment, energy, all of its people, systems, processes, decision making, marketing, sales, development, training, creativity and innovation towards the provision of Total Customer Service at a cost that is acceptable to both supplier and external customer. It requires the identification of internal customer supplier relationships and sharing the nature and characteristics of the dependencies, demands, needs, wants and expectations that exist between them and which have to be addressed. Crossfunctional harmony rather than ambiguity, misunderstanding or conflict has to exist and quality standards of product and service have to be in place. It requires all internal customer supplier relationships to establish enough empathetic common ground to enable internal business relationships to be developed and sustained. Internal and external ‘market compatibility’ means negotiating the degree of acceptable compromise involving ‘you’ the customer ‘me‘ the supplier and the jointly shared ‘us’. Don’t make customers ‘work uphill ’.
Total Customer Service begins internally, involves the total organisation and becomes an output to our business world and to our external customers.
Successful operations management requires a framework which guides action. I identify four integrated dimensions of ‘Total Customer Service’ within the ‘Customer Service Hallmark’ quality standard, framework, guide and benchmarking model as follows.
1. The extent to which total customer service is a dominant value stance.
2. How total customer service beliefs and values are reflected through service delivery.
3. The importance of relationship management and building positive mutually beneficial customer relationships.
4. The need to understand customer perception of who we are, what we do and react positively to customer feedback.
Each dimension has a proposition for action supported by a series of demonstrations of required action. It’s a synergistic model and like suppliers and customers all four dimensions need each other. Leaders get the culture they deserve. Total Customer Service leadership has to be observable to be believable.
About the Author
Stuart McKechnie is the author of ‘The 4 Dimensions of Total Customer Service’. As founder and CEO of UK based McKechnies Limited, international organisation and people development consultancy, he led the company for over 20 years before living and working in Australia. He remains a Director, is a Fellow of the UK’s Chartered Management Institute and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a Professional Member of the Australian Institute of Management and an Associate Consultant with the Executive Education Centre of Murdoch University. Stuart and his wife Kath are in the process of relocating to his home country of Scotland.