Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding how "icebergs" can sink your service, part of Managing a Customer Service Team.
- Good customer service managers spend a lot of time worrying about service failures. In many cases, warning signs were missed. I call these warning signs icebergs because what you see is small compared to what's lurking below the surface. This video will explain how to look for icebergs, so you can stop small problems from becoming big ones. It's an essential skill that will help you continuously improve service. The first step is probably the hardest. Don't assume it's an isolated incident. We're so geared towards solving problems for our customers, that it can be difficult to stop and wonder if the problem might be even bigger.
This happened to me with my book, Service Failure. I just received the first copies of the book from the publisher. I kept the first copy for myself, gave the second to my wife, and gave the third to my parents when I visited them that weekend. While visiting my parents, my dad pulled me aside and he showed me my book. It's a brand new book but the pages were already falling out like this. My first instinct was to promise my dad, "I'll get him a new book." Fortunately, I remember the iceberg theory and decided to check the other books my publisher had sent.
Sure enough, the same pages fell out of every book in the box. This wasn't an isolated incident. I'd found an iceberg. Once you find an iceberg, you need to take the next step. Find the root cause. If you don't find the root cause, the problem might just keep happening. If you do find the root cause, you'll get a much better sense of the problem. How big is it? Who is impacted? And, how can you fix it? When I discovered the problem with my book, my first step was to call the publisher. They did an investigation and quickly discovered an issue with the book binding.
My publisher gave me both good and bad news. The good news was their printer had fixed the problem and was re-printing the books. This was a big win since it prevented many customers from receiving defective copies. The bad news was a few books had already been sent to retailers and were used to fill customer orders. And that leads us to the third step. Be proactive. It's almost always cheaper and easier to proactively fix a problem than to wait until your customers notice. With my book, I worked with the publisher to take a few proactive steps to help customers who received a copy of the book with the book binding problem.
We set up a procedure where customers could call a phone number and request a replacement book without going through the hassle of returning the defective one. I published instructions on my blog, and personally reached out to anyone I knew who had purchased the book. Most people I talked to hadn't yet discovered the problem so they were happy to have a solution ahead of time. I also personally inspected every book I saw for the next several months. This included books that were shipped to me, copies I found in book stores, and even books that people bought elsewhere and asked me to sign.
This last step actually resulted in the discovery of quite a few defective books. Readers were happy that I was able to replace their book right away. So, are you ready to be an iceberg hunter in your organization? Let's recap some of the benefits. Find problems early. Minimize customer impact and cut costs. If you find problems early, you'll often be facing a small problem rather than a big one. Miss the warning signs, or worse, ignore them, and you'll soon have to deal with a much bigger mess.
That leads us to customer impact. Think about what happens when customers experience a problem. They contact you for service, they tell their friends, they even take their business elsewhere. Finding icebergs reduces all of this and that leads us to the thing our executives care most about, cutting costs. Fewer problems means fewer contacts which saves money, improves word-of-mouth, and can help you retain customers. Think of it this way, a friend of mine recently told me he found an iceberg, a bug in the company's billing software.
It might be hard to get an executive's attention if that's the story you tell. But what I told you it was a $50,000 problem that could be easily fixed. Now, executives are listening. And that's the value of finding icebergs.
- Clearly defining outstanding service for employees
- Evaluating service quality
- Identifying obstacles to outstanding service
- Aligning resources to optimize service delivery
- Calculating the cost of poor service