I find it useful to periodically see what it is like to be one of our customers…to get a good feel for what our customers experience when dealing with us.  I will say this, it is never what I expect.  There is always some element of the intended service that is not happening.

  • How many of you have called your own company to see how your receptionist handles the phone?
  • How many of you have tried to navigate your own voice response system to get a particular service, or really sat down and rigorously tried to navigate your web page?
  • How often do you sit with your customers and ask them detailed questions about the service they are experiencing with your company?

If you have a small number of customers, like less than 25, you can interview them all.  As the leader this is a great way to start building the relationships that will drive your top line growth.  If you have more than 25 customers you have to be a bit selective, and perhaps do some by survey.  If you are in an industry (like consumables) in which you have hundreds, thousands or millions, then you must use surveys or sample groups.

Now, that is just for your EXTERNAL customers.  Think about it also for INTERNAL customers – your employees.  As a team they are working together.  They are customers of each other in some way or another.  The relationships between your teams members is essential to effective operations, and internal customer service is essential to those relationships.

  • When BD needs some details from operations for a quote they are preparing, what kind of service do they really get from the internal team?  How is the team dynamic?
  • When production requires special materials, what kind of service levels is your procurement team providing?  Are they pushing hard to find the best pricing and ensuring the quality you seek?

In every turnaround I have done my first step has been to do exactly that…to speak with as many customers as I can (external and internal).  Much of what you need to fix in a organization your customers have experienced and will tell you, and they will not be shy.  They will give it to you right between the eyes, which is what you want.  Just make sure you listen and do not react defensively.