We’re all familiar with the term, “Customer Service,” but I would maintain the term is woefully misleading. Customer Service, as too often practiced, is an after-the-fact function for many organizations. It exists, almost exclusively, to take care of lost (or, incomplete) shipments, non-working components or unhappy customers. Rather than focusing on the customer, its focus is on “saving the sale” for the company.

On the other hand, “Customer Assurance” is a practice that too few organizations practice. And, yet, Customer Assurance separates the best from the rest — and, one of the most important criteria you should use when making your supplier choices.

What is Customer Assurance?

It is a practice that marks the best-of-breed organizations. It is based on a genuine commitment to customers throughout the organization and includes:

• Formal or informal survey involvement of customers before any development of products or services begins.

• Formal involvement of customers in the review process of prototypes.

• Formal and informal involvement of customers in the “results measurement” process of actual field implementation of the created products or services.

• Traditional Customer Service activities.

Unfortunately, most organizations practice only the latter activity — traditional Customer Service — and that means that the product or service you purchase is only going to be fixed “after the fact.” Far too often, customer service becomes simply a “response department” in which the sole function is to respond to complaints, error reports and other problems.

What you should be looking for are vendors that practice Customer Assurance — vendors that are thinking “customers” from initial development through service-after-the-sale.

Specifically, let’s examine what you should be looking for when selecting a provider of training courseware.

The first step in Customer Assurance, for any vendor offering training in skills acquisition, is a partnership with its customers. Does the choice of subjects-to-be-taught come as a response to customer-interest? Are the video and graphics used originating from actual on-site visits to process and manufacturing companies? Is the talent used comprised of actual workers, already expert at the procedures being taught?

The second aspect of Customer Assurance involves the planning and review stages that are integral to the programs being created? Are actual customers being involved at every step in the development process?

The final step is the one we refer to as traditional Customer Service — an after-the-sale activity that results in “fixes” to problems and questions.

However, without the other — equally important — aspects of Customer Assurance, the Customer Service component will be never-ending — simply because “customers” were never seriously considered in the planning, making, and reviewing processes — all essential to meaningful learning today.

So, when you’re talking with a training vendor, quiz them carefully on the stages of customer involvement they incorporate when creating their courseware. The answers they give you may be eye-opening.

More on Thursday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning (Tuesdays & Thursdays)