• How would you grade your current Customer Service… and would your customers agree?
  • Your Customer Service can be thought of on a continuum between Operational Efficiency and Customer Intimacy

5 Key Steps to Improve your Customer Service:

  1. Clearly define your Service Model
  2. Deliver consistent answers regardless of time of day, week, month, or year
  3. Develop a staffing approach that allows for variability
  4. You must be able to answer the question AND solve the problem… those are two different things
  5. Ensure effective technology to achieve your service model

Customer Service has always been important for retaining customers and deepening each customer relationship.  Achieving “great service” is the new Holy Grail to obtain to keep those valuable, existing customers from straying.  The good news is that more options are now available to both small and large organizations to achieve great customer service.  It all starts with a plan.

If you had to give your Customer Service a grade, what would it be?

How would you grade the current level of service being provided to your current customers? Take a quick test using the key criteria below giving yourself a grade for each area.

Would you grade yourself differently depending on the time of day?,  week?, month?, or year?

If you gave yourself all A’s, congratulations!  You are likely doing a great job in providing answers to key questions swiftly and accurately. If you did not give yourself an A in every category, maybe there are opportunities to improve your current approach to customer service.

Here’s another perspective…Would your customers give you that same grade that you gave?

What if you asked your current customers to provide grades with the same criteria?  What information would that exercise yield?

Having performed this exercise for the last several decades two things traditionally ring true:

  • Internal grades are not as positive in the positive areas, and not negative enough in the areas needing improvement.
  • External grades are closer reflections of true problems.

It is important to remember that the customer’s experience will continue to be judged by the overall value provided to each customer who calls, writes, faxes, or emails their question, concern, or need for resolution to their problem.

News Flash: It is likely to get more complicated!

If you or your customers are not grading your customer service with all A’s, now is the time to make change happen.

To ensure you are best positioned for success, we have put together some key conditions that you should keep in mind to help improve your overall customer service grades and to help you move from your current operating model to the vision of the ultimate service model:

1. Define which service model your customer base thinks is important to meeting their needs and desires.

Your service is driven by disciplines, business structure, and management systems that align along a Service Continuum somewhere between Operational Efficiency and Customer Intimacy, depending on your commitment to efficiency, technology, and customer interaction.

Below are some guidelines on where you may fall on that continuum.

Are your services:

Aligned to consistently meet a specific set of standards?

Customers are provided
a guarantee for
consistent achievement of
service levels in key areas
such as call response
time, hold times, and
abandon rates

OR Aligned to partner with each customer to define their service expectations?

A company must accept requested service levels as a requirement to win or retain a customer’s business, which may include custom services, unique reporting requirements, or special handling instructions

Is your service delivery:

Repeatable, reliable, integrated into other systems and highly self-service?

Customers are educated
on how to access the
company phone and
web tools and
efficiently navigate to
the common areas
containing their
own information


Variable, unique, and personal, within timeframes defined by each customer?

Customers can each
access customized voice
response and web tools
including their own
preferred terminology
and unique web links to
other partner plans

Does your primary value proposition define your company as an:


Your single most
important   focus is
Cost per Transaction



Your single most
important focus is
Customer Satisfaction

Your answers to these key questions place your customer service disciplines somewhere along the continuum between Operational Efficiency and Customer Intimacy.

Your customer service processes should be designed in support of where you are plotted.  It is not one size fits all.

Where are you along this continuum?

2.  Ensure your service model is able to deliver consistent answers to customers regardless of:

  • Variations of the Customer Service Representative (CSR) expertise in your servicing units.
    • Variations in service responses will eventually cause customers to call back seeking answers they want to hear, if they perceive their first contact was with a less experienced or less helpful CSR.  This drives up call volumes and creates doubt in the members from the responses they receive, especially if they compare responses to similar issues that are inconsistent or just plain different.
  • Conflicting priorities of other internal departments that support your service model.
    • Achieving guaranteed, predictable service levels always requires other departments to equally commit to resolving problems and issues that are transferred to their department via handoffs and escalations from your customer-facing resources.

3. Assess your staffing model and how effectively you are matching to transactions volumes.  Are you able to expand/contract quickly and proactively?

  • Variations in service can occur for many reasons, but it is often a by-product of staffing decisions and resource readiness to support peak volumes.
  • Each call, letter, email, fax, can be considered a transaction with the customer.
    • The assignment of each transaction should be based on the readiness of a resource to handle that specific type of inbound inquiry or problem.
    • How each CSR tracks and prioritizes their assigned transactions is essential to an efficient and accurate management status report of all completed or pended transactions.
  • Customer Service transaction volumes do change daily, requiring the service team to expand or contract in size to handle the anticipated volumes of work.

4. Define the best way to answer the question AND solve the problem consistently, predictably and repeatedly

  • Create a customer experience and service delivery model that not only answers today’s question but seeks clues that can be used to predict what may be occurring, leading the CSR to truly solve the customers’ root problem and avoid a second or third call.
    • A caller who is having trouble accessing the website has a secondary reason for getting access.  The CSR needs to find out what that is and service that need while on the initial call.
    • A caller who cannot fill a prescription at a pharmacy may actually be a clue to a failed eligibility transfer between organizations and requires more than just a one-time approval to fill a prescription.

5. Ensure access to effective technology that allows for efficient navigation to deliver a prompt response and full problem resolution.

  • 360o degree view of the customer is becoming baseline functionality in today’s corporations.
  • Automating work distribution creates an efficient method for moving work based on its priority and available trained staff.
  • Initial assignments can be made and distributed electronically as work arrives.

Keeping these key items in mind when assessing your customer service function will help you stay focused on the services that impact your success.

Having completed multiple customer service assessments over the last couple decades, Himes Consulting Group has compiled a Detailed Customer Service Report Card that can be used to further guide a self-assessment.  If you are interested, click the link to request a copy. This can be used as an analytical tool to assess your current customer service delivery model.

For additional information on this topic or to learn how Himes Consulting Group can help you, please contact us at INFO@HIMESCONSULTING.COM.