The City of Clinton, NC had a good idea. Instead of resolving themselves to the fact that they would have to continually deal with 20% of all utility bills being paid late, having to call most of those late payers, having to cut-off service to some, and having to reinstate service to many of those cut-off, somebody took a step back and asked a simple question. What is causing all these late payments? Then they took an interesting first step by deciding to simply ask the customer.
In the article City rolling out revamped water bill, efforts by Shawn Purvis and the City’s Finance Department are noted. But what struck me most about their efforts is that the approach was based on root cause analysis such as ‘Let’s not assume we’ll always have late bills, complaints, and cut-offs at certain levels and that we cannot do anything about it. Instead, let’s try to figure out why all these issues are occurring and put in some permanent fixes.’
So they began asking late-paying customers why they were late; based on those responses, they implemented solutions such as simplifying the utility bill, better educating customers, and noting total bill payment levels if paid on time v. late. In other words, they asked the customer, and they acted on what the customer told them.
CSS has redesigned bills and invoices for clients, too, and it’s to achieve some of these same goals – making it easy for the customer to pay you on time…reducing the numbers of calls and complaints about bills.
This is the beauty of root cause analysis. While it’s not a panacea, it puts the focus on understanding why bad things happen, and – in customer service – one of the best ways to determine the “why” is to simply ask customers and employees.
Learn a (non-political) lesson from Clinton.
Read our New Book – “Ask Yourself…Am I GREAT at Customer Service?” http://www.amigreatat.com/
Listen to our latest podcast episode of “Stepping Up Service” on The MESH Network at http://themesh.tv/stepping-up-service/
Interested in improving your company’s customer service? See more at our new website! http://www.cssamerica.com/