Needs Assessments Pay Off

By Kendra Lee  |  Print this article Print

Is poor customer service making your customers sick? A Needs Assessment could improve the condition of your company.

Here's a common story:

Mr. Customer Service Manager knows his people aren't performing at the level they should be. It's been going on for months and while he knows the problem exists, he can't find the cause and therefore can't define a solution. He feels like a person who has an illness, knows what the symptoms are, but needs the right doctor to prescribe the best medicine.

This is a struggle for many customer service managers who see the symptoms resulting in poor customer satisfaction and ultimately, sales. Internal surveys, training and observation haven't helped and customers are becoming more discouraged with the company.

In order to combat this problem, many companies are working with customer service and sales professionals to implement a needs assessment for their organization. It's like working with a customer service doctor who can come in and examine a company objectively and find the cause of a problem based on the symptoms.

Here's what a needs assessment typically involves:

Defining the problem
Like the first call to a doctor's office, the customer service manager explains the symptoms that he believes are affecting customer satisfaction. This provides both parties with the opportunity to define goals and objectives, establish measurements for success, and establish a plan for a Needs Assessment to take place.

The check-up
During this phase, the focus is on gathering information to support the goals and objectives. It's like visiting your doctor for a battery of tests and exams. Except rather than drawing blood and doing a CAT Scan, other steps take place:

o        Interviews with key sources – personal interviews are conducted with the company's customer service organization, training, sales, executives, any organizations interacting with customer service, your partners and your customers. 


o        Blind test calls – calls into your customer service organization to hear how your team responds to the mundane to the difficult challenges your customers present.


o        Printed material and web-based research -- web sites, presentations and support tools are reviewed, as well as job profiles, compensation plans, training manuals, policy and procedure manuals, periodicals and other printed material to assist with the final analysis


o        Industry analyst research -- industry analysts provide additional insight into the best practices of customer service organizations, along with your company's strengths and weaknesses, and perceptions of your company that may impact the project and final recommendations.

The value of research

History & Future
As any good doctor must know a patient's medical history, a customer service doctor needs to know your company's performance history. This includes access to any customer satisfaction surveys for the past 18-24 months, employee satisfaction surveys, and trends during the past 24 months and projections for the next 12 – 18 months.

The alternative to "keeping the patient overnight" for observation in the business world is for the customer service doctor to make a house call. During a needs assessment, the company should expect a consultant to talk with customers, partners, vendors, executives, customer service reps and the management team, take the time walk the customer service floor, listen in on calls, place their own calls, and see a training program in session.

Once the research is complete and all the information has been gathered, the analysis phase begins. The customer service doctor takes all the information back to their "lab" and begins to make assessments and draw conclusions. Inconsistencies are identified and further researched to make sure the right remedy will be prescribed.

In this phase, conclusions are drawn and recommendations identified. The analysis work is pulled together into a recommendations document that will be shared with the patient, or in this case the customer service manager. It is this document that contains a company's remedy for success.

During the delivery phase, the final conclusions document is presented to the customer service manager and other key members of the company. Similar to a doctor having a heart-to-heart discussion with a patient, the consultant will outline how they arrived at their conclusions and what must be done for the company to cure its problems. Recommendations are made, including quarterly check-ups with the company to see how things are progressing and if the prescription is taking affect.

If your customers are sick and tired of poor customer service, a needs assessment could be the best and most effective remedy. Don't put it off any longer!

Kendra Lee is the president and founder of KLA Group, LLC , a services company that specializes in helping small and large IT clients raise employee market awareness to improve sales.


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