Tag Archives: client service

How much is client service worth?

3 examples of companies that will show how you should never underestimate the value of client service in IT.

Client service is a big and important part of your IT organization’s support. In fact, it may be worth a lot more than you think.

In your IT manager role it is important to understand the value of client service and what it can do for your IT organization.

To illustrate how important client service is to a company, I’ll use three personal examples. These three company examples will give you a sample of just how important it is with companies that understand the value of client service.

Example 1: IBM

I worked for IBM way back in the “mini-computer” days when small and medium companies were buying their first computer. It was an exciting time that included lots of fun as well as hard work.

What I initially thought was that IBM’s revenue came mainly from new client sales. I was wrong and quickly learned that about 70 percent of the revenue at that time came from existing customers. This is true in many companies today if you look closely at their revenue makeup.

What this means is that existing clients are very important to a company’s success. So, retaining clients and maximizing the sales potential from existing clients is going to be a strong focus.

IBM placed a huge emphasis on client retention. The way they did this was to build incentives into their sales plan for marketing reps. If a company left IBM and went to a competitor, the marketing rep accountable for the client paid IBM back the current commission value of the lost business.

That’s right, you paid IBM back even if you did not sell the business many years earlier.

The message was simple: IBM marketing reps need to be on top of the client satisfaction of their assigned clients. Future business is dependent upon it so IBM places a high value on their existing clients.

I can assure you that the risk of losing real dollars creates real incentive.

Example 2: Infiniti

I have owned five Infiniti automobiles and still drive one today. A major reason is due to a client service experience I had with my first Infiniti car in 1990.

What happened is that I got in my car one Monday morning to go to work and the car wouldn’t start. The reason I learned later was because I had accidentally left the car door ajar over the weekend and the battery was dead.

I went to work in my wife’s car and asked her to call the Infiniti dealership to see about getting the car checked out. At this point we were not sure what the problem was although we suspected it was simply a dead battery.

To make a long story short, Infiniti received the “support call” and took care of the situation.

While they were doing all of this, they called my wife six times to keep her updated on their progress and the status of the car. Here is how it went:

  • Infiniti receives the support call.
  • Infiniti calls owner, “A technician is on his way and will be there in approximately 30 minutes.”
  • Infiniti technician arrives, charges the battery and transports the car to the dealership to inspect it more fully to insure there were no additional issues.
  • Infiniti calls owner, “Your automobile has arrived; we are checking it out and will call back once we know what the issue is.”
  • Infiniti calls owner, “We have inspected your automobile; the problem was a dead battery. We are charging it fully and will call you once the repair is completed.”
  • Infiniti calls owner, “Your automobile is repaired and should be returned in approximately 30 minutes.”
  • Automobile is returned.
  • Infiniti calls owner, “Calling to confirm you have received your automobile in good working order.”
  • Infiniti calls owner, “How did we do in taking care of your problem?”

By this time, my wife is saying, “Enough already!”, but she was also very happy.

Here is the key point and something IT managers should think about when supporting their clients. Infiniti communicated often to keep their customer aware and in the loop. My wife never had to guess about the status of the situation and this creates a “peace of mind” that is valuable.

It set the tone for me purchasing more automobiles from this dealership.

Example 3: 4imprint

Recently I ordered 50 personalized journals for a class reunion we were having from 4imprint, a company I had ordered similar journals from before.

The journals arrived in three boxes. We opened the smaller of the three boxes to inspect the journals and were very happy with them. All is good, or so we thought.

Fast forward a month later and it is Thursday around noon only two days before the big reunion. At the last minute I decide to put an ink pen in the journal loops. I assigned this important task to my wife and she starts adding a pen to each journal.

Then I hear those terrible words, “Mike, we have a problem!”

The ten journals in the small box we had inspected were perfect, just what we ordered. But the two large boxes had some other company’s journals which were completely different from ours.

It was our fault for not checking all of the boxes when we received them, but we still have a problem. I’m thinking we will probably not be able to give our classmates a journal at the reunion. Instead, I’m preparing to hold one up and tell them, “This is what your journal will look like.”

I call 4imprint and get routed to one of their client service reps. I explain the problem, she asks me a few questions, and then she tells me she is going to contact their production facility to determine what options we have. She also says she will call me back as soon as she talks to the production people.

The end result was that we received the replacement journals within 24 hours of my call, unbelievable client service. The other thing that impressed me was how well the client service rep communicated the status of our situation; I was never left in the dark.

I was so impressed that I sent the president of the company a nice note and told him how happy I was with their products and client service. I will order more from this company in the future.

What does this all mean?

Great client service creates advocates for your company, , , or for your IT organization. These advocates buy more products and services from you or they become partners and support agents for you and your team.

Plus, and this may be the biggest benefit, they tell others about their positive experience.

Great client service adds tremendous value to your company or to your IT organization. The bottom line is that client service is important and providing excellent client service reaps big benefits.

And what do you think is the key component to delivering great client service?

You bet, , , it is communicating well. That’s the trick.

So, you want to take full advantage of creating great client service by communicating and following-up well. It pays real dividends.

Caution – be careful when a client describes his problem

I was reminded of a basic client service issue last week, , , “You need to be careful in reaching conclusions based upon your client’s description of a problem”.

My wife’s cousin called us last week. He is more like a big brother to Dorine so our families are close. He was in town trying to get his PC fixed, but was getting nowhere fast.

I knew he was having a problem because he mentioned something about it a couple of weeks before. He had others work on the problem but it was apparently not yet resolved. He decided to take the PC to one of the major computer stores which apparently resulted in no help, , , so he called to see if I knew anyone who might be able to look at the issue.

I asked him to describe his problem, and here is what he told me.

  • It started when he installed a new printer. The new printer driver apparently messed up several things on his PC.
  • He took it to a local guy who was successful in removing the printer driver and restoring is PC.
  • Everything seemed to work except for his Photoshop software. For some reason, he couldn’t view his newer photos. All the older photo files could be opened and viewed but recent photos could not be opened.
  • He receives an error stating, “Can’t view the file. It is an invalid file type.”

Kenny uses Photoshop quite a lot and he was extremely frustrated. He had reinstalled Photoshop a couple of times but could not get past this “invalid file type” problem. As a result, he can’t use Photoshop to work on his new photography projects. This is a significant business problem for him.

What to do?

Initially, I thought about restoring his PC to a previous date to see if that would fix the problem. Then, I thought of a couple of other possible ways to resolve his problem.

But then I had an idea that would save us time and ultimately lead to the solution.

I thought, “Let’s focus on the problem we know we have (invalid file type) and let’s not assume the installation of the printer has caused this problem with Photoshop. Maybe the printer installation is the issue, but we need to focus on the specific problem that has been identified for us, , , Photoshop cannot open and view a new photo file, , , and we have a specific message telling us what the problem is.

How do you find the answer to a problem? 

Most of the world’s questions are answered in GOOGLE.

So, I keyed in the phrase “Photoshop – invalid file type” and search Google for possible help.

Sure enough, the first listing comes right off the Adobe web site and since Photoshop is an Adobe product, , , I’m feeling pretty good already.

I read the information and in it is listed the specific steps to diagnose and solve this problem.

To make a long story short, Kenny brought his PC over to our house and we resolved the problem in just a few minutes. Now, this was after several weeks of having others look at the problem but not able to resolve the issue.

I’m not a heavy technical person, , , in fact, you don’t want me working on your PC.

What was the problem?

The issue actually had nothing to do with the printer Kenny had installed and subsequently removed. It was an entirely different issue.

The problem was that he had bought a new camera and the Photoshop plug-in that converts a camera’s raw image to a Photoshop file that can be modified and manipulated needed to be updated to support the new camera.

The reason the others were not able to fix his problem is because they were working on what the client thought to be the problem. Unfortunately, both the client and his support people were chasing the wrong issue, , , a waste of time, , , and very frustrating for all.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you, I was lucky to solve this issue so easily and quickly. But the reason I was able to solve it is because I focused on the defined problem (Invalid file type in Photoshop) as opposed to assuming the client was correct in his assumption that it had to do with installing a printer.

The printer may have caused other issues on his PC but it had nothing to do with the fact he could not view his new photos in Photoshop.

The lesson – Don’t just assume your client knows what is wrong. Diagnose the problem based upon the facts you can determine, , , not assumptions someone gives you. The assumptions may be helpful, but they can also lead you down the wrong path and cost valuable time and create tremendous frustration for all involved.

At the end of the day, most problems are caused by something pretty simple. The trick is to discover what that “simple thing” is that’s causing the problem.

I get real nervous when I see a PC technician start making all kinds of changes on a PC very quickly. In many cases, they create more problems rather than taking their time to troubleshoot the issue before making any type of changes to the PC.

Another lesson – GOOGLE has the answers. . . I’ve discovered the answer to many technical issues using GOOGLE searches.

Who are your sponsors?

Have you taken a moment to consider who your sponsors and supporters are in your company?

You need them at all levels:

  • Senior managers
  • Department managers
  • Users
  • IT employees

Senior managers are valuable allies and can help you  so it’s vitally important to develop a relationship with them and also to create credibility with them. These guys need to be able to trust you will do what you say you will do.

Department managers and their staff (Users) are the ones who use the technology you support the most. Better develop a partnership with them and gain their support or life is going to be difficult for you.

You even need your IT employees to sponsor what you are doing. If they do not believe in their manager and endorse where you are trying to take the team, , , it probably won’t happen.

You need sponsors all around you. Take a moment to take an honest and objective inventory of who your sponsors are.

Be honest with yourself when you do this!

First, list the people in your company who you believe you need their sponsorship, , , including your key employees.

Next, put a check mark beside the ones you truly believe you have a solid relationship with and who sponsor you when they talk about what your IT organization does for your company.

Do you have a few names listed but do not have a check mark? If so, you now know who you need to work on, , , develop a plan to gain their support and make it happen.

An IT manager must be a teacher

Let me share a personal story that goes far back into the dark  ages of time, , , the mid-1980’s.

I was with a company and we reorganized the company to place more focus on our clients. In this reorganization I was assigned the IT support manager position to support 25 hospital clients using software applications our company developed.

I inherited 25 or so IT employees, , , mostly programmers with a few Business Analysts, Help Desk and Infrastructure people. Most of my new staff had 3-5 years experience in supporting these clients. It was a young group but very smart and high energy, , , one of the best IT organizations I’ve worked with.

They knew the software application inside out, , , knew a lot about client service, , , and were very conscientious about doing a good job for our clients.

Experienced, smart, and conscientious, , , seems like we would have been very successful without the new manager (me) having to do very much.

WRONG!!

What the team was missing was processes and insight about what it actually takes to take care of your client. I would learn the hard way over the first few months that I would need to teach them some of the basics in:

  • Troubleshooting problems
  • Follow-up
  • Communication, , , especially listening
  • “The client is always right”

Let’s take just the first one, , , troubleshooting.
We had a very large client who had apparently always had problems, , , people from this large hospital were difficult to deal with, demanding, and could even be rude.

If you step back for just a moment and think about these things, there is usually a reason why people act this way. In this case, it stemmed from a recurring problem the client had every month end. It was a real problem for them and my staff either discounted the issue or did not fully understand the problem, , , so the same issue came up every month.

After getting hit with this issue myself, I decide to take a small group to the client to observe what was taking place. To resolve a problem, you have to know what the specific issues are, so that’s what we set out to do, , , troubleshoot the problem.

The issues were immediately apparent because we were there and “heard” what the client was saying, , , we experienced it with the client so we understood what was actually taking place.

Here is where it gets important:

  • We quantified the specific issues
  • Got the client’s agreement these were the issues
  • Recommended a solution
  • Gained client agreement again to support our recommendation
  • Implemented the solution

This solved our client’s issues, , , and guess what!

They became less demanding and more pleasant to work with. Interesting how this works.

The point
Even though my team had tremendous knowledge and experience and they were very intelligent people, , , they were not troubleshooting the issues with this client very well. They could not quantify the issues for me when I asked about the problems the first time I received a phone call from our “unhappy client”.

It was a great teaching opportunity that helped the team develop into a more capable organization.

Inspect and be sure your people know how to troubleshoot a client issue.