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How to audit service and support quality.

"My analyses always seem to startle management," says Rick Kilton, a consultant who specializes in customer service and technical support audits for technology companies. "Often, managers sit up in their ivory towers, setting company strategies, but then they're surprised to find that people who talk to customers every day have no idea what the company's goals really are."

When Kilton undertakes a service audit, he says there are several key questions that are likely to inspire "unexpected answers"'

What do employees think is important? In the absence of a clear message about company goals, says Kilton, "employees will just go off and do their own thing." Often, they take their cues from performance measurement systems--"which may have absolutely no relationship to corporate strategy."

What do employees think the customer wants? "Service employees know a lot about the customer's state of mind," Kilton notes. "They know whether the customer is really satisfied, and they'll pick up on marketing and revenue opportunities that an untrained person wouldn't recognize."

How does the company measure service quality? "I've seen companies that produce six-inch printouts of data that no one can make any sense out of," says Kilton. "The real questions are much simpler: What are your quality standards, and are you doing well or badly according to those standards? If you're collecting data that you can't relate back to these questions, you're just

collecting trash."

What does the company sound like to a customer? "Call your own business anonymously and see what you get," Kilton suggests. "If you get lost in a voice mail system that wasn't well thought out, or if the service reps don't have time to answer your questions thoroughly, you'll have a better idea about why your customers might be a little irritated."

What gets in the way of a good job? Kilton makes a point of asking service employees about small but annoying obstacles that interfere with efficient work--for example, important reference files that are located in another room, or "goofy" rules and paperwork that serve no useful purpose. A more subtle obstacle is lack of empowerment, he adds. "Empowerment is a popular buzz word these days, but it's important to watch what happens when employees make mistakes. If they're penalized--even gently-- they'll never make a decision on their own again."

What's the turnover rate? "When service employees are hired, a lot of times they're warned that people burn out in 18 months or two years. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, people don't get burned out doing things they like," Kilton notes. "And if the employee's needs are being met, there's a pretty good chance the customer's needs are also going to be well met."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Soft-letter
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:customer service and technical support audits for technology companies
Publication:Soft-Letter
Date:Jul 31, 1992
Words:449
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