The forgotten art of customer service by Stuart Harrison , 29th September 2021
An awful lot of time is given in business to talking about providing the best possible customer experience, and in a digital world, that invariably means a bot doing its level best to answer a set of predetermined, commonly asked questions – I can tell you this for free, that simply wouldn’t cut the mustard in our industry.
Now, I’ve always believed that to do a job – and do a job well – you need to have a mission that underpins and anchors everything you do. My mission is refreshingly straightforward: to keep our customers happy – it’s as simple and as challenging as that.
Outside of Ark, I wouldn’t expect many people to know what my role involves but as a Client Delivery Executive (CDE), I’m essentially the everyday interface between client and company. My role has many different hats, from advisor to coordinator, to resident problem-solver. It’s this level of variety that keeps life interesting, and I can honestly say, no two days are the same.
Where the work really begins
Onboarding a customer is arguably one of the most important roles that I play and is ultimately the first experience the day-to-day team will have of Ark. Quite often, it will be an entirely different group of people who agreed the contract itself, so it’s of paramount importance that we go above and beyond to ensure they feel comfortable and confident; and critically, that we’re proactive in absolutely everything that we do.
In the early stages, we’ll ascertain our customer’s knowledge level, in other words, understand precisely how much help is needed. Some know exactly what they want and what they require from us, while others will need that extra bit of guidance. This is where it’s my job to ensure we’re doing everything that we can to provide the smoothest transition possible. I’ll draw upon the relevant teams internally and put all the key people in a room, so they not only understand the path forward but receive a crystal-clear message that we’re here to help and support.
Personally, I think this is where we both earn our place at the table and establish the foundations of a much longer-term relationship. As CDE’s we’re not Account Manager’s, we don’t have financial targets or commissions, we are simply measured on providing a top-drawer customer experience. I’ve never asked the question, but I sense that’s important to the customers we serve.
Once onboarded, the real work begins. Together with the client, we create a proactive plan by understanding what is needed to go live, and then take the time to factor in our customers anticipated growth before future-proofing their solution and allowing room for some additional capacity. This may all sound simple but by asking the right questions at the beginning, we can help our customers reduce both capital and operational costs from day one.
Keeping an ‘A’
I’ve heard it said that anyone can get an A, it’s keeping an A, that’s the challenge and this is where the art of customer service should be heralded as a genuine pursuit of excellence – an art and approach which today, is too easily hidden behind complex digital experiences.
Let’s be honest, life has a habit of throwing curveballs when you least expect it. Much like change, problems to solve remain a true constant. A pandemic for instance may once have seemed a far-fetched scenario but today serves as a stellar example of where agreements and the foundations of relationships are really put to the test. Even though one role of a data centre is to ‘prepare for the worst’, the first few months of lockdown were remarkably effective in keeping us all honest while at the same time illustrating the significant value that we deliver.
From the moment lockdown was announced our phones rang off the hook with each of our customers needing to adapt, and (in some cases) dramatically change the way they work. Yet together, we ensured that the systems of a multitude of businesses could run 24×7 with zero disruption. I think it’s fair to say that if you pride yourself on exceptional customer service, there is nothing quite like a world-changing event to demonstrate what you’re really made of.
Some companies manage to nail a brilliant customer experience both in person and online and broadly speaking they have one thing in common – they simply put their customers at the very centre of everything they do.
The phrase ‘The customer is always right’ popularised by Harry Selfridge has the potential to be misinterpreted as an uncompromising absolute position, where I believe that Mr. Selfridge meant it more as a statement of intent, an attitude or an openness to always be willing to help. There will be times when the customer may be wrong but that duty to understand and be the help that they need is (and must always be) an unrelenting pursuit of excellence.
Sometimes simply saying ‘If you have an issue, bring it to me and I’ll do what I can to help’ is all someone really needs to hear because behind every ask in a data centre environment, lies the absolute heartbeat of the business, its systems, security, availability, and quality of service to their own customers.
I’m still yet to encounter a bot that could respond to the truly dynamic needs of the customers we serve because in our world, no one day is the same. Some challenges may be common but in truth, there is no one set of predetermined questions that I know which could predict the diverse and changing needs of thousands of businesses – for that, sometimes all you need is a human voice, letting them know, that you’re in their corner.