Back to the Future – It’s All About Customer Service Fundamentals
A funny thing happened to me recently. I took on a “new” role – Global Leader for EMC Escalation Management, “new” because it’s a role I’ve had previously in my EMC career. Going back to a role I had done previously was, honestly, a strange feeling. Would it be the same? Would I learn anything new? Would I be the same? Would Huey Lewis and the News provide the soundtrack?
Two months in and it turns out I really shouldn’t have worried. EMC has changed immeasurably in a few short years and, more importantly, that change has been evolutionary and revolutionary. I could go through a litany of how that has happened but this isn’t a marketing blog to talk about products, features, or roadmaps!
Different…But the Same
The most interesting thing I’ve seen is that while EMC has continued to change, how we interact with our customers hasn’t. Let me clarify that: the tools we use, the transition from data pull to data push, and the technology we now have available has improved vastly (refer to my earlier comments on evolutionary and revolutionary change). At its simplest form, however, our customers still come to EMC to get the answer to one simple question – “Who’s got my back here?” If you want the quick answer – it’s still “We do.”
Gathering Feedback and Looking Back to Move Forward
In transitioning into this position I interviewed many of the stakeholders that work with the team. One piece of great feedback was a focus on doing the basics well – so I thought, “What a great place to start, and get a quick win, right?”
To fully understand that back-to-basics approach I decided to go WAY BACK and do some historical research – also known as opening that drawer in my desk that hadn’t been touched in 2-3 years – to see if I could uncover some basic guidelines on managing customer discussions and developing expertise – it’s what EMC’s Service DNA was founded upon. I was genuinely elated to put my hands on two hard copy folders – “Excellence in Managing Customer Conversations” (2003 Edition), and “Outage Management Training for Customer Service Managers” (2005 Edition).
Get the Fundamentals Right
The fundamentals are every bit as relevant today as they were then. In many ways they are actually even more relevant, as we have infinitely more channels to communicate to our customers now. I’ve highlighted a few below key points below for use in those senior level customer interactions:
- Add value – successful communication is our currency
- Keep technical information at a high level – if you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough
- Be clear in your communications – include specific owners and timescales
- Success / fail criteria for each action – what are your alternative options and associated risks?
- Negotiate reasonable checkpoints
- Focus on customer’s business problem, not the technical one
Our customers are a special breed, and that’s very much meant as a compliment. Our customers are on the leading edge of a 3rd platform of technology. Their business challenges are new, some are without precedent and thus the evolution (or is it revolution?) can bring many challenges. Our customers want assurance they are not alone in this journey. They are 100% dependent on EMC to guide and lead this journey on their behalf. Our communication is the most critical component of this – we’d all do well to make a mental note to go back to those basics to periodically check in with our customers and ask “Is there anything I can help you with?”.