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Think agile for better customer experience

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Learning what not to do is essential for an entrepreneur creating a business. It is easy to find examples of what not to do from everyday life because problems frequently occur. Recent interactions with three different companies provide just a few examples of businesses suffering from a lack of agile thinking. The businesses claim to be customer centric and desire to please their clientele, yet their services and service departments fail to measure up.

The ability to think ahead and anticipate unexpected events is part of the concept of agile thinking. It involves more than limited customer surveys, designing new offerings, or project development. Business leaders must consider what comes next. They also must evaluate whether unexpected events might affect a business positively or negatively.

It is great to redesign an internet service to make it easier to navigate, but what about the long time users that hate the new version and are unable to obtain the same perceived value. Contracting multiple call centers may reduce time on the phone for some, but what happens when the service representatives know less than the customer and are not able to make decisions or resolve a problem. It is essential that leaders consider how to deliver the best service and products. They must also learn to anticipate problems and find a means of quick resolution. A few specific real examples are:

Investment service: Changed their web design making it more appealing to look at. In doing so, they eliminated the ability to find data critical for some investors. The consideration of whether some customers would dislike the new offerings was not apparent. The same business created 4 call centers for different types of problems. However, none of the center people work for the company and none had ability to make decisions or provide the correct information. Finally, when reviewing issues about the site, the representatives had no familiarity with the older product or the printed product published weekly. How can one help when they know nothing about the product!

Bank: A local bank offered a free service. They later changed the service to charge monthly and deduct a fee from an account. They notified customers by a letter requiring the customer to call to cancel or be charged. The questions to gain access to a representative were many and that was after a 5 minutes on hold. Then, the representative spent 10 minutes trying to convince people to retain the service. Calling in to cancel a service you do not want should be less complicated!

Cable: Appointments for installation involve two parties. On the day of install, a homeowner called to determine why the service person failed to show. The company rescheduled the install without notifying the customer. Then when the representative came two days later, no install could be performed without changes to the connections on the street level. Knowing the needs for service in an area should be something the business is aware of! Oh, and never run advertisements for services your firm does not yet provide.

Every growing company will experience changes in products, personnel, and services. Planning for these changes should consider ways to minimize the negatives and enhance the positives. Great companies want people to perceive their product and services in the best possible manner. There will always be unhappy people with any change, but by thinking ahead, it may be possible to minimize negatively affected customers. Here are just a few areas that could result in improvements generating a more positive customer impact. Think more globally as you read these as they are examples. The real exercise for your business is to find similar problems that may affect your business and fix them before they negatively affect your customers.

1) Product changes: Changing an offering to make the product easier to use may cause the loss of utility for some customers. Once long term clients are familiar with the product the complexity is less a concern. Changing the product may result in their in ability to use the product in a manner that was important to them. Try to identify ways to help new and old users of the product have better experiences with the new design and still get what they want.

2) Customer Service: Call centers should have people that fully understand products and offerings. It helps if they can make decisions. Increasing the number of service centers reduces wait times and allows for specialized help, but only if the people know what their products and services. Customers do not like making multiple calls to address the same issue and they hate it more when no one is able to make a decision or provide real help. It is even worse when the customer must explain the product to the service center because they do not understand it. Remember, people want to know how they can get the help they need. Try to hire and train the service center personnel appropriately.

3) System awareness & scheduling: Providing some services over a wide area requires significant infrastructure. A service center may be the correct place to make appointments, however if the appointment must be changed, the service should contact the customer prior to the scheduled time and workout a new appointment time. It also helps if the center is more familiar with the locale and specific needs for that area. It is hard to hear that the install will be weeks away because certain equipment is not located nearby. Try to understand the needs and requirements in advance and schedule events to occur more timely.

Taffy Williams can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter @twilli2861, ColonialTDC , photo website, Google+, Facebook, and Startup Group. He has written more than 300 articles for: Startup Blog and Examiner Charlotte, NC- small business. More on the agile concepts may be found in soon to be released book: Think Agile

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