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Articles to Help You Be More Productive

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  • Time Management Article Collection
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  • Computer & Email
  • Get the Most from Microsoft Outlook

  • Beware the Empty Inbox

  • Get the Most from Your Handheld

  • Do Digital Organizers Save Time - Or Waste It?

  • Efficient E-mail Habits

  • Transitioning from Paper to Digital Information Storage

  • Faxing Without a Fax Machine

  • Getting Your Files When You're On The Go

  • Business & the Office
  • Time Tactics for the Office

  • Keeping Track of Delegated Tasks

  • Controlling Interruptions

  • Keeping Track of Your Customers & Prospects

  • Do Your Employees Really Need Customer Service Training?

  • Paper Management
  • Action Files Prevent Desk Clutter

  • Reclaim Your Desktop with a Tickler File

  • What To Do With All Those Business Cards?

  • Managing Project Folders - A Surprising Tip that Works

  • Time Management & Organizing
  • The Power of Planning Ahead

  • Words of Wisdom You Should Ignore

  • Coping with Information Overload

  • Thirteen No-Tech Time Management Tips

  • Do Your Employees Really Need Customer Service Training?
    © Jan Jasper; 2001-2012

    If you go to the doctor with a headache, do you demand a particular treatment before she examines you? Of course not! Well then, why do managers send their employees for customer service training -- before they know what the problem is? Another common mistake is bringing in a motivational speaker to talk to staff that has to fight dysfunctional work processes day after day. It's like putting a band-aid on a cancer. Even the best employees can't do their jobs if the job itself is an obstacle course.

    A company I worked with recently -- let's call it Ultra Widgets Distributors -- had big problems with customer service. Mark, the manager, had been hearing a lot of complaints from customers. Customer records had disappeared from the system, simple inquiries went unanswered, and sometimes orders were shipped to the wrong address. Julie, who handled customer service, was just making too many mistakes. Mark had already spoken to her about it and she blamed their database. Mark replied that there wouldn't be anything wrong because they'd just had this super new software installed for their customer database.

    He thought Julie needed customer service training. One thing you could say about Mark was that he was willing to invest in training his people. He'd recently sent the whole sales force to an motivational seminar. They'd done a big trade show recently that brought in hundreds of leads, yet they wrote very little new business - it seemed like the sales people weren't following through. So Mark thought maybe more training would solve the problem.

    I began my work by asking Julie what she did in a typical day. She showed me her customer database and the problem was immediately obvious. Instead of one file per customer there were several, forcing Julie to hunt and click between multiple screens. Customers became irate when they had to make numerous phone calls to resolve the same issue, then were given the wrong information. While Julie tried to help one customer, four other calls would go to voice mail.

    As I watched Julie work, I gleaned some important clues. Martin, owner of a Widget Mart retail store, called to ask when their red widgets would arrive - he was annoyed because Ultra Widgets had shipped him blue widgets by mistake. She looked at his order history, and couldn't find any record that he'd even placed an order. Julie explained that his records must be in the old database. He'd heard this before, and finally, Martin threatened to take his business elsewhere.

    The next phone call was from a prospect who wanted the Deluxe Widget spec sheet e-mailed to him. But Julie would have to fax it because product spec sheets were not in the computer. The fax was way down the hall and there were 2 people waiting to use it. Everyone had to send their own faxes now, since the last round of cuts in support staff. But Julie couldn't stand and wait -- she had to get back and handle the phones. It was the next day before she finally got that fax out. Julie heard about that from her boss, too. Seemed like she couldn't do anything right.

    I interviewed some other employees, then delivered my recommendations to Mark: Cleaning up the customer database would solve most of their problems. Mark protested, "But we just took care of that! It should be fine!" Not quite. He explained that, after installing their new CRM (Customer Relations Management) software a few months earlier, Deluxe Widgets had talked to several consultants about migrating the customer records from the old system into the new. They didn't want to spend a few thousand dollars for an expert. They found "a kid" to do the job for only $500. This turned out to be an expensive bargain. They found that a significant amount of customer and prospect information had not migrated from the old system to the new one. Those trade show leads that the sales people didn't follow up on? Turns out many of the phone numbers were still in the old system. It was cumbersome to look in both the new and old databases to find a prospect's phone number. Even worse, the old system was no longer on the network, so the sales people couldn't access it from the road. Because the data migration had been poorly handled, the company didn't realize the benefits of its new customer management software. Obviously, this had to be addressed.

    I also recommended they scan the spec sheets into the computer so Julie didn't have to walk over to the fax machine, then wait to use it. If Julie could e-mail the spec sheets, she wouldn't have to leave her desk - and fewer incoming calls would go to voice mail. Now that's customer service!

    Key points:

  • Don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish with your customer database. If you've got new Customer Relations Management or Contact Management software, don't cut corners on the data migration process.

  • Don't buy another fax machine - if you still have important information that doesn't exist digitally, either have it typed in or scanned so it can be sent via e-mail.

  • If your employees' workday is an obstacle course, look at your processes and identify bottlenecks, and then correct the actual problems - rather than battling symptoms.

    This article is available for a one-time reprint or one-time internet posting if you include my copyright notice, provide a link to www.janjasper.com and identify me as follows: "Jan Jasper, a productivity expert in the New York City area, is the author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press)." Read Terms and Conditions for details.
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    About the Author:
    Productivity coach Jan Jasper has been helping busy people work smarter, not harder since 1988. Her customized approach guides clients to manage time, tasks, and information more effectively. She also provides Microsoft Outlook customization for clients. Jan is the author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press). She recently completed a North American media tour as the national efficiency spokesperson for IKON Office Solutions, Inc. She has appeared on radio and TV all over North America and is quoted regularly in print. Jan is an adjunct instructor at New York University.

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