>Customer Service and Enterprise Architecture

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Good customer service is worth its weight in gold and indeed, many people are willing to pay extra for this.

In fact, I would venture to say that most of us are usually willing to pay extra if we know that the customer service will be there to protect our purchase or investment.

The Wall Street Journal, 25 April 2008, introduces a new book called “The Best Service is No Service” by Bill Price and Dave Jaffe that discusses what real customer service is all about.

How bad is customer service these days (despite all the technology)?

“When calling an 800 number, we expect to find ourselves in voice-response hell. We dutifully follow instructions to key in a 10-digit policy number—only to be asked by the customer-service rep for the same darn number. Waiting on hold for 25 minutes? Well, that’s what speakerphones are for.”

How have companies responded to calls for better customer service?

“There is more to helping customers than picking up the phone within three rings or emailing within 24 hours.” And these measures are often gamed; here are some examples:

  • “At one company, where managers imposed a target ‘average handle time (call time) of 12minutes, phone calls miraculously shortened to just under 12 minutes: As the 12-minute mark approached, agents simply said whatever it took to get the caller of the phone.
  • The call center at another company hit on the idea of reducing the number of phone lines so that the excess callers simply got a busy signal-and went unmeasured.”

“In other words: don’t just ask how long it took to help the customer, ask how often the customer needed help and why. The goal is to avoid the need for a customer to contact the company [about problems] in the first place.”

The authors contend that the goal for good customer service is for there to be no need for customer service—i.e. the customer is happy with the product or service being provided and there are no problems and therefore, no complaints. This to me sounds akin to Six Sigma and the quest for zero defects.

And if zero (or close to zero) defects are not the reality, then good customer service is about finding out the “root causes” of the problems and solving them, not just appearing responsive to the complaints, but doing nothing to ensure they don’t happen again.

Good customer service is a strategic competitive advantage, and organizations should include improvements to this area as a goal in their plans.

From a User-centric EA perspective, good customer service is like a sister to User-centricity. We put the user/customer/stakeholder at the center of the organization’s value proposition.

We are here to serve the user and that should mean more than just paying lip service to them. It must mean that we continuously improve processes, products, and service and make the end-user experience zero-defect, problem and hassle free.

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