Is Your Service Agile?


You and your organization are struggling to keep up with how technology has affected the way people communicate and work.

You are not alone. The last IBM Global CEO Study (‘The Enterprise Of The Future’) interviewed 1,130 CEO’s in 45 countries and 32 industries, and found that organizations not only felt bombarded by change, but that many are struggling to keep up.

Last week, we debated why customer service in social is not fair. The inability of organizations to keep up with their customers is very much part of why — if you're in a big company, your business is just not structured to be that elastic, if you're in a smaller environment, your resources are even more limited.

News of the study and the thinking around agile marketing I will be reviewing here with you are the hands-on work of Neil Perkin, who reinterpreted the concepts of agile software development and applied them to marketing.

Becoming agile in service

I'd like to see how the principles of agile development can assist you in making the adjustments you need to keep the customer experience positive. The feedback loop of this model can help you evolve the way the organization deals with service issues as they occur.

This is by the way the same kind of conversation you're having about real time listening and monitoring. What I like about the connection to the agile principles is that they offer a useful framework you can apply to your circumstances, the customer code reds.

You learn to put:

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Organizations that are growing and adding functions usually go in the other direction — more processes, more tools. The driving forces behind it are the quest for standardization, which by itself is not a bad thing, of course, and the desire to put the firm above any one single individual, unless it's the CEO.

The result of this drill, makes you just like everyone else. The one characteristic of memorable experiences is that they connect with you at a human level. As Perkin noted, agile working values interactions between individuals, active customer involvement, continuous feedback, transparency.

Interactions with individuals are real. This is the main reason why everybody loves Frank.

2. working outputs over comprehensive inputs

You are all familiar with calling trees and repeating information after entering it, if you ever can get to a live person. Organizations insist on collecting a lot of information from customers before they give anything back to them in the form of service.

A learning strategy is to focus on relevance to the customer, providing value right off the bat and adapting the rest of the interaction to deliver on what the customer is looking to do.

Getting a response when you need it is preferable than having to chase one over time.

3. collaboration over contracts and hierarchy

Organizations that handle customer conversations as battles to be fought and won may have buyers once and end up losing customers. It has been my experience that when people are forced into tight structures and departments fight for internal visibility and resources, the tension and lack of cooperation affect customers.

There is more to this principle. In the age of cognitive surplus, collaboration helps businesses create more value by earning the combined efforts of their people on the inside and that of the passionate customer evangelists on the outside.

People enjoy feeling useful and helping other people. Customers turn to each other for help, here's why.

4. responding to change over following a plan

Those who are enamored with velocity, consider that agile is about responsiveness. Doing something you must, given that responding is the most influential thing a company can do to increase customer advocacy.

I found that especially organizations that have their roots in engineering and science have a hard time with being responsive while they look into the issue. Those disciplines value precision and accurate accounts of what happened may take time.

Yet customers may not know you are researching the issue or how long it will take and take their issue online and their business elsewhere. Incremental communications are the iterative part of the service end of your business.

When in doubt, overcommunicate.


When you're agile, you shift your focus from keeping up to making things happen. And that is a much better place to be and learn from for your organization. Iteration also helps you stay nimble, resist the temptation of over complicating, getting to the heart of what matters.

To document and share how you do things and invite contributions, you can open source the way you work. Facilitate, connect, suggest.

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