Invisible Customer Service Processes Are the Best Kind
Customer service is the thing most touted by businesses and governmental organizations alike. In governments, the customers are generally seen as the public, but that’s sometimes not the case. For instance, if a governmental agency is working under מערכת שירות לקוחות a grant, the ultimate beneficiary may be the public, or some members of the public, but the work product is often a report that must be delivered to the granting agency-that makes the grantor the customer. That lesson is largely lost on universities which often see themselves as institutions similar to churches-they are demeaned by thinking of themselves in commercial terms. Nonetheless, when we think of customers in business terms, we most often define them as the end users of the product or service the business is selling.
The best kinds of systems that support customer service are transparent to the customer. Customers do not want to hear a voice that tells them that the wait time on the phone is 15 minutes only to hang on the line for 14 minutes before the call gets dropped. Granted, these frustrations are sometimes unavoidable, but they do not serve the customer very well, even though they are sold as customer service systems.
Let’s take another case. A person who is covered by a major national health care provider packs his prescription when he leaves town. He finds out that he needs to stay away for an extra week and does not now have enough doses to last. He calls the provider first thing in the morning and explains the situation. They inform him that they will process his request by the end of the day, which is difficult for him based upon his schedule, the different time zone, and the pharmacy hours at the local office. What seems like a simple operation is not, and all of that is evident to the customer who is now not being served-at least by his definition of customer service. In a world of electronic communication, he thinks, why can’t they simply pass my prescription to the other office via the speed of light (less a few miles an hour)?
After verifying over the phone in real time that he was who he said he is, who his doctor is, and what his plan number is, there is no understandable reason for not being able to immediately forward all his pertinent information to the local office. Once in their hands, the time it takes to fill the prescription simply relies on where in the queue it is. That would be customer service. We all understand that we occasionally wait in line. What we don’t understand is why so many things that could be done in an instant take so long to do.
The best form of customer service is the kind where the customer cannot see the process that occurs between making the request and seeing the result. Stakeholders of customer service systems, like health care operations and banks, need to build systems that reflect not only their own business needs, but the needs of the end-users of those systems. Those people are you and me, and we are not paid to troubleshoot poor processes.