Only Humans can Provide Good Customer Service

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 by Tripp Babbitt

I have seen it over and over again in service organizations.  The over-prescribed use of information technology in service.  I have already blogged about The Evil of Information Technology.  Where two command and control systems (buyer and seller of technology) create a scenario that almost ensures creating waste.

The issue at hand is that good customer service is pulled from service organizations at the points of transaction (or I like to call them "touchpoints").  These often ignored front-line workers ARE the company to most customers.  How well the customer management process performs at the touchpoint is crucial to the performance of the organization.

"Lean" manufacturing likes to standardize as the first step and those using "lean" service like to start here also.  This is wrong first step in service industry.  Service customers bring a variety of issues to the table and standardization makes the customer fit into the company’s process, where what the customer wants is the service company to absorb their different varieties of demand.  With technology change management leading the way with scripts and coding to "standard work" service organizations can not absorb this variety of demand.  Worse, the software has locked in the waste.  Why?  Because when customers don’t get what they want they either go somewhere else or they complain and/or call back to get the service they seek (failure demand).

Organizational change management in service begins with understanding the work (beginning at the touchpoints) and the ability to absorb the variety of demand posed by customers.  This variety can only be absorbed by a human, not technology or scripts or standard work.  Command and control managers believe they should be the ones making decisions about the work . . . the work that they don’t understand.  A systems thinking manager understands that the best person to make decisions about the work is the worker and the job of the manager is to work on the system.  Only a human can absorb the variety of demand from customers and the human worker should determine what technology, scripts, standard work, etc. will be valuable to enhance the service.

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