Monday, July 27, 2009

Customers 1st 2009 Podcasts: A Conversation with Kathleen Peterson: Part 4

As we get gear up for the 2009 NACCM: Customers 1st Event this year, we're going to be interviewing and getting to know the speakers and sponsors who will bring their perspectives on customer service to you. We recently sat down with chair Kathleen Peterson to talk about the event, both today and what has changed since she first chaired it back in 2003. This podcast will have five parts, so check in next week for the final installment from Kathleen Peterson.

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Question: This year’s NACCM is all about what companies must focus on now, so that when the dust settles, they will emerge on better, stronger, more relevant than ever. It’s about short term actions now for long-term sustainability. Why do you think this focus is on point with what business leaders need now?

Kathleen Peterson: I think really we’re about what we already know, what do we need to know, what are we learning more about, what are we going to do, how did it work and what actions are we taking.

The bottom line comes down to if we don’t do it now, it could be never for some organizations. Because there is no [time], the delay, the analysis, a lot of those things were luxuries that we’re going not necessarily abandon but we’re certainly going to have to look at what has the past five years taught us. In terms of the approach we take to business and to learning. I think one of the number one takeaways from this is what have we learned? Every single day, people should be asking themselves what do I know today that I didn’t know yesterday? What is that, where is that relevant in terms of our short terms action, and how will this impact us over the long term. What do we need to change?

I think the whole concept of bringing people, management and staff members, everyone into the corral so that the energy is being built around what do we all do, how do we all contribute, how do we make all of our jobs easier in some ways. Because I think what we’re learning here, people used to say that their businesses were so complex. And now they’ve realized they’re complicated. We not complex, we’ve just complicated it. As we start to take apart processes, and we learn more about the learning of technology will become infinitely important for anybody in a position looking at marketing or customer centricity, customer service or customer care. We have to be in the process improvement business. If we’re going to be in the pursuit of process improvement, and we’re going to be committed to the a quality experience for our customers while simultaneously doing more with less, then we really need to be partnering with our IT folks about what technologies makes sense for our business. There are enormous promises that will save you money, make you more productive, improve your customer experience I think people need to make sure in this market, a good thing in some ways because we’re not too loose with the pocketbook, we’ve got to really make a case and say an investment here in a particular kind of technology that will enhance process to allow us to better service at a higher level of quality is going to be an investment that will have a significant return to us but I think it takes multiple parties. The days of the learners of the customer contact continuum, everyone has to get their needs clear, and their technology questions answers so they partner with their technical experts within their enterprise to make that work.

When we talk about training in Powerhouse, we talk about learning. Training is an event, but learning is the experience we want people to leave with. So the approaches and techniques and technologies associated with the ability to keep people current, up to date, and consistent in the relationships cross functionally is going to be critical. Because it is so often knowledge errors or communication errors that cause failures within the customer experience that needs to be ironed out. And I think sometimes people look at those, it may be something simple at first, but you realize over the longer term, errors have been reduced, customers need to call has been reduced, subsequently cost has been reduced and contact with customers has a much higher value. Contact with customers because of problem loses value every time they have to call you on that.

Business leaders now are going to have to come to a conference like this to learn what the other are doing, what works, what doesn’t work, how do we improve process, people and communication. And especially how do we improve operations. For years, this has not been sexy. But now, I think it’s going to become a very worthy investment. It’s not the big bang things that people do to make a difference. Now, it’s turning the dials. Making sure that all the dials are turned up, and everyone is marching in the same direction and singing from the same song sheet.

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