The following is an excerpt from Phase 1, Step 4 of Dream Teams, How to Delight Customers While Cutting Costs and Saving Time by Faith Ralston, Ph.D. Â© 1995 QA Publishing, LLC, Inc.
It is easy to make assumptions about what customers want and need. Interviewing customers provides the team with up-to-date information on customer priorities, clarifies likes and dislikes, and identifies emerging opportunities, satisfying key customer service principles.
Keys to success:
Always talk directly to the customers â€“ never assume you know their needs
Prioritize customer needs above internal needs
Be specific, and clearly state the desired customer outcomes
Communicate customer service principles and needs to all employees
Frequent mistakes made:
Team prioritizes internal needs rather than customer needs
The biggest mistake made by teams who do not interview their customers is to focus on internal needs rather than customer needs. Example: An office service group for small business owners decides to improve work efficiency; so they fire their dedicated word processing specialist and hire an individual who will do administrative work as well as word processing. Customers are irate because they want a dedicated person to handle their word processing needs. The office staff decision has made their workplace more efficient but lost customers in the process!
Team fails to update assumptions about customer needs
Customer needs change. Without talking to them, we live in the past and cannot discover these emerging needs. Team members say, "But we talk to our customers all the time." Yes, but the conversations are about immediate needs and services rather than inquiries about level of satisfaction and emerging needs. Example: A state agency wants to improve the quality of a report that they produce for the legislature. But after interviewing customers, they discover that the legislature no longer wants this report! Customer data helps teams discover new opportunities, verify the extent of a problem, better understand how products and services are used, prevent problems that impact the customer, and prioritize the work of the team; all key customer service principles.
Multiple customers have conflicting and competing needs
Individuals in an organization serve different customers. The needs of these customers are sometimes in conflict. When this happens. Internal departments compete with one another to meet the needs of their diverse customers. Interviewing customers will help the team look at the total picture and determine which priorities meet the needs of all their customers.
Learn more about the Quality Management tools for process excellence in The Handbook for Quality Management (2013, McGraw-Hill) by Paul Keller and Thomas Pyzdek or their online Quality Management Study Guide.