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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Customer Service 1

Yikes; where does the time go?
My last blog was LAST YEAR! Not bragging, not complaining, just observing... with shock.

Happily I have some great excuses. And not that the dogs ate my blog notes (my laptop is indigestible – Vista Home Edition - and still intact – Dell makes 'em tough). The first excuse is that we have been overrun, in a nice way, with work leftover from the recession pull back.

And that in turn has inspired me to comment on observations lately about Customer Service.

Let's start with the old chestnut:
Rule #1: The Customer is always right
Rule #2: If the Customer is wrong, read Rule #1

But of course, that is silly – right? That's for folks who want to go out of business. After all who can afford to try to meet all the various, and sometimes unreasonable, customer wishes?

A story...

My talented and lovely partner, Vickie Gray, among many other skills, is an accredited instructor in the ITIL Framework of best practices for Information Technology and Service Management. (Catch the word “Service”?)

As instructors, we have an arrangement with a supplier of course materials who have to get their product validated by the appropriate governing body. This ensures that the course content is “up to snuff” and fit for human consumption. Or, at least, matches the defined syllabus for that course.

Also, as independent consultants and trainers, we partner with training organizations who sell seats in the various courses, then have us provide the training.
All good so far.

Now once upon a time... this past January to be precise, Vickie was asked to teach an ITIL course in a city far, far away by a training organization far, far away using their training materials. (I am disguising the location and names to protect the innocent.)

To be more exact, the training organization we will call National Training had just entered into an agreement with a materials supplier we will call Behind Technologies, or perhaps Way Behind Technologies (first plot clue). Unfortunately for everyone concerned we weren't consulted on this choice – the first “Moment of Truth” in our tale. If we had been, we would have recommended our own supplier, ITSM Academy, who produce the best material and support we have experienced; and they know about Customer Service.

But no matter; Vickie is a master at teaching these courses, understands adult education methods, is certified at the highest levels in the ITIL Framework, has had pass rates of over 90% to date... how hard could this be? (Second plot clue).

As the training date approaches all are expectantly awaiting their course materials, including our instructor Vickie. This might be the right time to point out that accreditation of the materials says nothing about Way Behind's capability to package them and ship them on time. (Another "Moment of Truth"). Not only does the instructor need a copy of what the student will use, but also the presentation slides to be displayed electronically during the course. I know that seems obvious, but.... (Third plot clue).

The first morning of the course Vickie is at National Training's facility bright and early, setting up the classroom, then greeting the students at the door as they arrive. (Another "Moment of Truth"). This gets a puzzled look of admiration from the boss at National Training. Apparently their other trainers don't do this.

And then the class starts.
Did I mention that Vickie's copy of the student binder didn't arrive? Of course you saw that coming (at the Third plot clue). No matter; Vickie can manage that, and carries on without blinking. Nonetheless, the dead rhino waiting in the swamp of quicksand for her was the just released and downloaded instructor slides.

The dead rhino is that the instructor slides are written in Powerpoint. The swamp is that Vickie uses a Macbook Pro without Microsoft Office (we use OpenOffice quite successfully in all situations.) This Powerpoint file wouldn't open, so Vickie had arranged for a PDF copy of the slides (Fourth plot clue).

All was well until a particular slide contained a hidden pop-up answer to an exam question which the class, and the instructor, were to discuss before proceeding. Let's see: electronic instructional material, that is being displayed via laptop, with no instructor notes, won't show the required pop-up, and of course no reference in the student binder. And Information Technology departments need Service Management best practices – why???

Now most reasonable folks would contact the supplier, Way Behind, and ask for the hidden content which isn't supposed to be permanently hidden, and that is what Vickie, then National Training, then Vickie and National Training did. And in all cases the answer was no – the material was in the Powerpoint slide and if the instructor wouldn't purchase Microsoft Office, and the secrets wouldn't pop up that was too bad. (Remember the first five words of Rule #2?) It can't be copied out and emailed, printed and faxed, or sent by post – nada, zip, zilch.

  • How many opportunities have you found so far for Customer Service excellence or failure?
  • And what would you have done as Way Behind Technologies to make this a successful event?
We'll post your thoughts and add some next time. :)