Why operations is your best customer-retention vehicle

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Assuming your customer service personnel are committed to meeting the needs of customers and the company, move them to operations.

Why do any of us try to reach customer service? Because something has gone wrong.

It can be anything from a bill that doesn’t make sense to a product, service or delivery issue, to a transaction we can’t complete alone. In other words, failure.

But all those calls recorded for quality assurance purposes haven’t fixed a thing.

While courtesy is appreciated, most of us prefer resolution over niceties. And the reality is customers deserve and can have both.

So why is customer service placed in the sales organization? Yes, they are nice. But operations is where the answers lie and data is used to eliminate future problems. And amazingly, are nice also.

Shift to operations

If operations is not your most effective customer retention vehicle, something is wrong. Marketing captures market intelligence and creates awareness. Sales brings in customers and orders. Operations is best positioned to take it from there.

So why is customer service considered a sales activity? Distrust.

There’s a belief that operations won’t take care of the customer, that they care less, that the relationship can only be supported by sales. If that is true in your organization, I repeat, something is wrong.

Assuming your customer service personnel are committed to meeting the needs of customers and the company, move them to operations. Expose them to the products, processes and the breadth of operations. The more they understand, the better they can service the customer and contribute to the focus on problem prevention. Placing the responsibility for customer service under sales wastes opportunity to prevent all the failures that create the customer service calls in the first place.

Top example

I recently evaluated changing my company cell phone service. Retail stores are not prepared to handle business accounts. The sales number I retrieved after searching the website landed with someone who assured me he only handles new accounts. He gave me the “right number” to call.

As frustration boiled, I signed in to my business account. I invested almost an hour there before deciding what I wanted to do. The confirmation screen provided a different price than the selection information. The web chat person assured me I would be billed the correct amount but could not show me that or send an email verifying that. I selected the effective date as the beginning of my next billing cycle to reduce the odds of billing nightmares.

The next day, my phone wouldn’t work and my company voicemail no longer existed. Multiple calls to customer service were dropped, with no one calling me back to continue the conversation. I called technical support, which assured me that the fact my phone didn’t work was a billing problem, not technical. More calls to customer service. I was finally told that the transition of service had turned off all my prior services. My only option was to make the changes effective immediately. My upcoming bill will be a mess, since everything I did using my phone during the 24-hour lapse will automatically be billed as if I have no plan. “No problem,” I was assured. “Just call billing and explain. They can fix it then.”

Where in that paragraph is the concept of customer service? No one had the operational knowledge (or permission) to fix the problem. And despite the fact the delayed effective date is a radio button on the website, I am quite confident no one has seen fit to communicate the issue to those able to prevent reoccurrence.

If customer retention is a challenge for your business, get customer service out of sales and into operations where it can actually prevent and fix problems. Customer retention will be higher, problems will be identified and prevented, and the sales force can concentrate on attracting new customers and orders.

That is why you hired them, right?


As published on American City Business Journals