Measuring customer service makes no sense until a customer service program is developed and implemented. Many companies have a customer service program that has evolved over a number of years, but usually without any formalized plan or process. However, with increasing competitive pressures, it becomes readily apparent that a formal plan is needed and has to be implemented across the organization.
A recommended way to start the planning process is with a senior officer retreat to foster greater teamwork within the company, as well as to obtain buy-in and commitment to a customer service program. As with any program dealing with changing corporate culture, a customer service program will not work without top-level support and active participation. Once management is on board and there is a clear direction, a customer service plan can be developed and implemented. Although a plan is necessary, it is not completely sufficient.
During the design phase it will become painfully clear that a customer service plan is only as good as the measurement, response, and plan refinement process. Without a way to obtain clear and accurate feedback, a company never knows how good its service is. A prime example of an inadequate measurement program is that of the old, and now defunct, People Express. Just months before the airline was forced into merging with Texas Air because its abominable service had alienated customers, People Express chairman Donald Barr claimed on the television program Face the Nation that the airline gave excellent service. Even after the interviewer reminded Mr. Barr that his airline was referred to as People Distress and was considered a joke in the industry, he steadfastly insisted that they provided excellent service. Clearly, People Express had a poorly designed customer feedback process, or it didn't solicit customer feedback at all.
To ensure that the best and most accurate feedback information possible is obtained, most companies have to engineer a new, or reengineer an existing, measurement process. The measurement process is an evolving one and has to be refined and updated on a continuing basis. The five steps toward defining a customer service measurement program are:
Identify, understand, and correct plan obstacles.
Determine the customer's service expectations.
Develop service tactics to meet or exceed the customer's expectations.
Develop measurement tools for assessing customer satisfaction.
Develop a process for refining the customer service plan.