Your Customer Service Problems Could Be Rooted in Transparency Issues

July 8, 2022 Jamie Notter

Nearly every organization has a version of this customer service problem: customers or members reach out to you because they need some specific answer or piece of information, but frequently the person they get a hold of (phone, online, in person) doesn’t have that information/answer and has to get back to them later. That may not sound like a big deal, but in the age of the internet we have become used to getting everything instantly, so I think it is increasingly becoming a big deal. Customers are not going to continue to be tolerant of an organization that is consistently needing to “get back to them” about things. They are raising the bar on this.

So if you want to meet this elevated expectation, then you need to build out your transparency architecture—systems and processes that ensure more information is visible to more people in real time. Most cultures aren’t very good at this. When it comes to transparency, we are much better at being reactive: if you ask me for information, I’ll share it with you. Which is fine, but it actually contributes to the slow customer service issue. I have to tell the customer to wait while I go find you, which is now taking even longer since everyone is in zoom meetings 10 hours a day!

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What we should be doing is taking advantage of asynchronous communication platforms so information is visible at the moment the customer is asking you the question. You could create numerous channels in Slack, for example, that are dedicated to updates from different departments. It’s a bit of a culture shift to get people to record information in these channels, since it seems kind of pointless at the moment the information is entered. But when that member at the annual meeting asks you about a breaking-news advocacy issue, it doesn’t matter that it’s not your department—you can check the slack update channel and at least give them the basics.

Align is another software solution that builds out your transparency architecture. It allows every department to record their top goals on a quarterly basis which includes progress metrics. If you use this tool, you’ll obviously spend most of your time on it managing YOUR department’s goals and metrics, but you can instantly get a window into where everyone else is at a moment’s notice. (We use Align at PROPEL, so if you’re curious about how it works, we’re happy to set up a call to discuss.)

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It is going to make a huge difference to customers when they realize they can talk to just about anyone in your organization and get at least the basics of their question answered. They will remember that when they are considering competitors who say they’ll have to get back to them. But you’ll have to do some real culture change to shift the way your people are sharing information, so you’re better off starting that process sooner rather than later.

So from a culture change perspective, it works like this:

  • Culture problem: Customers or members are frustrated because they can’t get the information they need when they ask for it.
  • Relevant culture pattern: Lagging Transparency (our culture values reactive transparency more than it values proactive transparency)
  • Culture solution: Use asynchronous communication and strategy software platforms to make more information visible internally to everyone
  • Results: improved customer satisfaction, increased organizational impact.

Note: this post is part of a new series on “Culture Solutions,” where we identify specific culture change action items that real clients have used to solve real problems in their organization.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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