September 2005

New Technology Basics: Remember Your Customer

The next wave of technical tools and services are starting to become available for implementation. The leaders are color printers that are now cost effective at $.06 - $.08 per page, next generation Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) that include e-mail, camera and cell phones, wireless access for laptops, in-truck message centers with printers, TCP phones that allow you to run your business from any location that has internet and (coming) the next generation of Windows (remember the 32-bit buzz words, here comes the 64-bit buzz words).

All this technology will make it easier to communicate, handle exceptions and bring resources to address business issues and customer needs in the most efficient method possible. The problem is sometimes we get so involved with the tools and the power or the technology that we forget the fundamental rule of all successful businesses. Remember the “customer pays the bills”.

How can you tell if your company has drifted away from its beginnings where you knew your customers, understood their needs and made sure your employees kept focus on the solution without blame?

One symptom is that your employees are so busy looking at reports and trends on the computer they do not answer the phone in a timely fashion. General rule is that the phone should be picked up no later than the third ring, by anyone in the office. It is nice to have touch tone call routing to your customer gets to the right person, but it is another thing when no one answers the phone.

Another symptom is that everyone communicates with e-mail. This is great because they don’t have to be face-to-face in meetings to work together. An order person can e-mail someone in dispatch to arrange for an emergency service, and include in the e-mail all the necessary details. This allows the dispatcher to read the e-mail and forward it electronically to someone in the field or e-mail the order-taker that additional information is required. What is great about e-mail is that all the details can be kept and communicated from the first time that they are taken, without the problem of errors caused by repetition.

If e-mail is such a great tool, what’s the problem? Remember that game ‘telephone”, where one person says something and it is whispered from person to person? When the last person reports what they heard it is highly unlikely that the sentence is the same as the original. When people talk, they not only communicate with words, but facial gestures, tone of voice and body emphasis that can make a big difference when describing the problem. It’s important to not solely depend upon e-mail but to listen between the sentences and compliment the e-mail with a phone call if the tone of the message is not clear.



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