Saturday, February 28, 2009

Customer Service: Your lifeline in the Crisis (Nicolette Wuring)

Editors Note: 

General Electric’s Jeff Immelt recently noted that the global economy is not simply undergoing an economic downturn, but an emotional, social and economic reset.  

Is your management team feeling panic about that?  Applying the thinking developed by the trustmeisters here in the Reputation Garage can help.  If Mr. Immelt is right, and we think he is, your management team will need to radically change its playbook.  And not only have the rules changed, there is not yet a lot of clarity around what the new game board looks like. 

Below our newest “trustmeister,” Amsterdam-based Nicolette Wuring, offers thoughts as this relates to her specialty: customer advocacy, operations and service.  In a follow-up piece, Nicolette will offer tips for keeping customers in this rough and tumble environment.


As your management team works its plans to manage the current downturn, it’s worth remembering that we are all at once suffering a financial market crisis, a world economic crisis, a management crisis, an ethics/values crisis, and a crisis of changing consumer purchase and lifestyle priorities. 

First and foremost this crisis is about trust, and trust is earned and lost by people. Over many years businesses became so short-term profit-focused that the managers, employees and even customers became just variables in the profit equation, traded off as assets or liabilities, not as the human beings they are. “Customer right sizing” is but one of hundreds of examples of this.  In too many cases the “right” was for profits, not the customer.  And the customer knew this and promptly withdrew credits on deposit from the company’s earned trust bank.

Or consider the CSR paradigm “People – Planet – Profit” that is widely promulgated here in Europe. Most corporations have not only been short performance on the planet-side, but also on the people-side. This has accelerated the profit collapse. 

The BIG question for industries and companies is how to become profitable again? The answer for 2009 is that you must get much better at finding ways to keep your customers by earning their trust. Relationships develop between people, not between “corporations” and “customers.” That’s where the customer facing people in organizations enter into the equation.

A good starting point is to answer the following questions:

1)     Do we have a strong level of “earned” trust among our customers? 

2)     Can we quantify it?

3)     Do we have strong managerial and operational competency to build trust through our customer-facing operations? 

4)     Have we set the right goals to drive trust, and are the right metrics in place to track progress?

Customer Service, Customer Care, Customer Operations, you know, all those people who manage the trust you build in your business cannot be treated as dehumanized robots, as ‘human doings’, managed at a task level for their quantitative results. One of management’s top priorites right now is to boost their role as the window to ‘the corporation’, representing the organization.  The bottom line?  You must find ways to help your organization to better interact with customers as human beings.  That is how you will earn trust and improve your relationships. 

Nicolette Wuring is an internationally acclaimed and awarded Customer Advocacy thought leader, speaker, author and boardroom advisor to Fortune 500 companies. She is the founder of Customer M@nagement Services,, a strategic consulting firm dedicated to helping business conceive of increasing their economic value by creating emotional connections and trust with their employees and customers.

Her latest book Customer Advocacy: When You Care People Notice is available on Amazon.

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