How to Give Your Company Service Deadlines

Usually it’s the customers who give you deadlines – and sometimes ultimatums – on service. Needing something done by, support within “x” time, service at “y” time and place. What would happen if you turned that concept on its head and gave yourself a deadline instead?

As Karen Leland wrote in a guest post at Zen Habits#, “A recently study by Dr. Piers Steel, a professor at the University of Calgary concluded that procrastination is on the rise. According to Steel’s research, in 1978 about 15 percent of the population were considered moderate procrastinators. Today that number is up to 60 percent, a four-fold increase.”

If customers procrastinate, as we’ve become more accustomed to doing for a variety of reasons, they approach the service moment more stressed and thus less tolerant and willing to be patient. The same is true for customer support functions – there might be a temptation to put off issues until it becomes putting out fires. Which in turn tends to exacerbate and strain the experience for all.

What would a company-driven deadline on customer service look like? Loosely based on Leland’s list:

1. Take advantage of the slow times to be proactive towards customers. With the help of technology, for example, you could run reports of who is scheduled for car maintenance and hasn’t called for an appointment. Call them.

2. Focus on the task at hand
, especially if it will help expedite a customer’s inquiry. How many times have you been put on hold when calling the doctor’s office? Sometimes for so long that you forget when you were looking to make that appointment. How about taking the call and booking the appointment now? Route calls to other staff to be responsive to all callers.

3. Cue yourself to be responsive and mindful even if you don’t have all of the information. This is particularly hard for engineering companies – unless the answer is perfect, there is no communication.

4. Give yourself and team credit for taking action on behalf of customers. The positive momentum will also help you take other steps to be more organized, proactive, and collaborative when it comes to customer support.

5. Be decisive when it comes to solving a service issue
. My mentor and former CEO had a great motto. He used to say paper is like blood, you need to keep it flowing. What Leland suggests is to do now, delegate, dump, or defer (schedule it) and it works.

Have you tried giving your company service deadlines?

[reposted from FC archives]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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