If you have ever watched, or participated in, a relay race, you know that the most critical point of the race is the handoff between the first runner and the next runner to receive the baton. If this handoff is not accomplished with perfection and the baton is dropped, the race is over for your team.
The most vulnerable time for a customer occurs when they are “handed off” from one team member or department to another. It is at this time when the possibility of their need or issue dropping through the cracks is highest.
How Many Handoffs Do You Have?
Take a moment and think about a typical transaction of a customer purchasing your product or service, from the time they first contact your company to the completion of their purchase and the delivery of your product or service. If you are like most of my clients, you can easily think of more than ten departments, or teams, that play a role in the handling of the customer’s request.
Customer Requests or Issues
So how do you keep your customers’ requests and related issues from dropping through the cracks? If you are like me, I know I can’t rely on keeping all of the follow up items straight in my head without a system or process. For almost all of our clients, we utilize case management practices in a Customer Relationship Management tool such as Salesforce, but for smaller organizations, cases could be managed using a shared Excel sheet.
Best Practice for Issue Resolution
When should you create a case? The general rule is if your issue or task involves more than something you will resolve in a single call or meeting, you should create a case. A correctly implemented case management process and tool will include the following features:
- A Case Screen provides fields to collect information such as the following:
- Account: or organization related to the issue being tracked
- Contact: person who will be your primary point of contact
- Assigned To: the name of the individual responsible for seeing that the case is resolved
- Description: narrative of the issue or concern
- Status: usually includes the following: New, In Progress, On Hold, Closed
- Priority: could be something like High, Medium, Low
- Case Type: general categorization of overall point to the case
- Due Date: when should this case be resolved to meet the customer’s expectations?
- Case Comments: an area where you can keep a running record of progress on the case. The comments should be date and time stamped and include the name of the person creating the comment.
- Attachments: it is common to attach supporting information such as a picture or related documents.
- Other fields specific to your business to aid in reporting and analysis of cases.
- Workflow automation. The system should support the creation of alerts and notices when certain conditions arise or the due date is approaching. Other related tasks could also be created to ensure progress continues towards case resolution.
- Case Review Process. Ideally, the key team members involved in responding to cases will meet weekly to discuss cases and close them only when all parties agree that the reason for the case has been resolved.
- Case Analysis. One of the primary benefits of recording issues or customer complaints in a system is that you can analyze the data and identify themes or trends, allowing specific actions to be taken to address the most common root causes.
If case management becomes a mature discipline in an organization, the benefits will be obvious and everyone will easily justify the time and expense required to enter and update cases. I can guarantee that you will have fewer customer issues “dropping through the cracks,” resulting in higher customer satisfaction ratings.
Next week we will deal with Customer Turnoff #3: Hearing: “That’s not my job” or “We can’t do that.”