“No one wants to deliver a bad experience,” Qualls says. “But a lot of times, we don’t really take the time to define, ‘Well, what’s the experience supposed to look like?’ What you get is a group of people who all have their own perception about what the client experience is supposed to be. That’s when you start getting those inconsistencies.”
Qualls wanted to erase the inconsistencies that he felt were occurring between the 34-employee firm and its customers. BlueLock is a provider of cloud computing and managed IT services and reached $9.2 million in revenue in 2009.
“A lot of people can emotionally relate to what an experience looks like,” Qualls says. “They know what really good service feels like. If you can get them in that frame of mind of what is the experience you want to deliver, they can talk really frankly about whether or not they are delivering that with their peers. You’ll start to see things boil up about what that experience is.”
Qualls suggests taking some inanimate object and having it run through each phase of your organization with your team and tracking how each step is conducted.
“You have to take something and run it through the organization from beginning to end and allow people to communicate about what’s occurring,” Qualls says. “You’re going to start seeing some gaps. Because you’re exposing this to the entire organization as far as the people who own the certain touch points communicating to others, there’s a level of accountability and review that’s difficult to get with just e-mails and separate meetings.
“Everybody has a piece that they own. As you walk through, particularly when you do it with your peers, they’ll say, ‘Well, you said that when you handed it off to them. Then what happened?’ All of a sudden, you start seeing the cracks or you start seeing people saying, ‘Well, that’s not the expectation I set.’”
Qualls says it might feel silly to do this kind of exercise, but its benefits are tremendous.
“Going through it, it starts to bring up some foolish misconceptions and perceptions about what is happening.”
Client service is something that can be easily overlooked by a fast-growing business, especially when all appears well and the dollars are flowing in.
“Too often, when you’re a young organization or you’re growing fast, everyone likes to think they are exciting and they want to be fast-paced,” Qualls says. “But you can’t afford to not see that you have a problem and you need to step back and catch your breath.”
Of course, you can’t do all your work internally if you expect to provide impeccable customer service. You need to talk to your customers and get some feedback from them as to what they think of the service your company provides.
“We periodically ask our clients, ‘What are we doing well?” Qualls says. “‘What are we not doing well? What recommendations do you have?’ We had clients who said, ‘I love what you guys are doing, but sometimes I don’t feel like I get the attention I deserved.’ Or a client leaves, because they found an alternative solution that fit better for them or they didn’t believe we delivered the value for what they are buying. That’s a huge red flag to step back and say, ‘What’s going on here?’”
It’s why you and your employees need to constantly be aware of what your customers are experiencing with your business and how you both can make that experience better.
“Define the promise,” Qualls says. “Define the client experience as a team with the people who deliver it.”
How to reach: BlueLock, (888) 402-2583 or www.bluelock.com
Collaboration is good
It’s one thing to have your department heads tuned in to how things work in their part of the world, but John Qualls wants them to have a say in how other departments at BlueLock do things, too.
“Let’s just say that you’re the vice president of sales,” says Qualls, the co-founder of BlueLock, which has 34 employees and provides cloud computing and managed IT services. “I’ve given you a goal to meet for client experience. I’ve asked you, ‘What are you going to do in sales to make sure our customers have a great experience?’ It’s always easy to say, ‘Well, this is what I’m going to do.’ Now I’m asking you, ‘What do you think your peers in finance, marketing, operations and R&D and your other peers on the executive team, what do you think they need to do to achieve this?’”
The idea is to get a dialogue going in which important company matters are out on the table for everyone to discuss.
“Each person presented what they believed they needed to do for that given objective to be successful,” Qualls says. “Then they heard from their peers what that was. That was a pretty powerful exercise. It was a great team-building exercise. It really showed the gaps of where the alignment was off. But everyone came away from that exercise knowing what they needed to do.”