How Is Your Customer Service Process?

Like many average homeowners, I am not what you would call “handy”. To compensate for this shortcoming, I convinced my wife that we should invest in a home-warranty service contract. The selling point for a home-warranty service contract is that if “anything” in the home breaks, you just call an 800 number and they will take care of the rest. Sounds good? It did to us. So, we signed up and sent in a check.

About a month ago, one of the burners on our stove stopped working. So, we made the call to the 800 number and asked for help. The call was not bad; I was only on hold for about 10 minutes before a live agent picked up my call. After I provided all the basic information she asked–my policy number, my address, my phone number, and my description of the problem– she told me that a service agent from a local repair shop would call me back within 48 hours. 48 hours?? Bear in mind that I called on a Wednesday, not during some off hours on a Saturday evening.

On late Friday morning, I received a call from a technician about my stove. He asked me to describe the problem again but now he also asked for the make and model. Then, he scheduled to come the next day from 2-4 pm. The technician arrived at 3:45 pm the next day (technically, still within the time window that he promised). He proceeded to take apart my stove and diagnosed the problem. After 45 minutes, he told us that he has the incorrect part. In fact, he is not sure when and where he can find the correct part. He said he hopes to call us within 2 weeks to let us know if and when he can return. “What? We have to wait for 2 weeks and then maybe find out if it can be fixed?” Talk about family crisis!

Sounds like I am talking about something you haven’t encountered before? Unlikely. If I substitute my stove burner for a copier, an elevator, or a machine in a factory floor, then it will be a fairly familiar experience. It is an age-old problem of not having proper processes and tools to service customers. Many companies are still tripping over their feet just to deliver basic customer service. They cannot capture and share relevant information, even among people within the customer service department. And without relevant information, servicing a seemingly simple request takes a long time and multiple visits. Productivity is drained while customers become disillusioned, and eliminating any possibility of retaining the customer let alone selling them other products and services.

Admittedly, this problem is not an easy one to solve. Many companies have tried but few have succeeded. Those that have succeeded have developed processes and use tools that provide clarity and transparency to their employees and partners who are serving their customers. Let’s use my case to elaborate on this point. If the company that I dealt with has the right processes and tools, then the contact agent that I spoke to would have known who I am after the brief identity verification. She would have known where I live and my contact information. Using the tool provided by her company, the contact agent would have been able to capture information about my burner problem, its make and model. With the symptoms that I provided, the tool that she uses should have been to able guess the cause of the problem and the corresponding solution. It should have identified the most likely parts and their availability. With this information, the tool should have also ensured that the appointment is set up appropriately by the agent while she is talking to me. Soon afterward, the service order would then be assigned and passed on (in completeness) to the qualified technician. And it would not matter whether or not the technician is an in-house resource or one from an external partner. And on the date and time of the service, the technician would have been able to repair my burner. This is what it means to have clarity.

The key enabler here is having tools that are connected to each other like Lego™ blocks. This is the case with SAP CRM, SAP ERP, and other applications within the SAP Business Suite. Like Reshma said in her blog, “we do it for you, so you don’t have to”.

And about my stove, the technician called us about 3 weeks later and told us that he had managed to hunt down the part. He would be able to come back in a couple of days and fit our burner. Well, he showed up at 6 pm on the scheduled day and replaced the malfunctioned part in 30 minutes. So, about 4 weeks after I made the call, our burner is finally working again. However, I am not so sure that I am ready to send in another check and renew our service contract when it expires next year.

– Hansen Lieu, Director CRM Solution Marketing, SAP |


2 Responses to How Is Your Customer Service Process?

  1. Many companies do pretty well without one they always have the machine serviced and parts and supplies replaced as needed as we do. As with pricing for the copier itself, service agreement pricing can vary significantly from vendor to vendor.

  2. sapcrmvoice says:

    Dear “Copier Service Contr”:

    Thank you for reading my blog.

    Having the tools that support your processes will enable you to go a long way in meeting your customer expectation while maintaining your profitability, espcially in the current economic environment.

    Hansen Lieu

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