As we approach holiday shopping time, many of us start thinking about long lines, frayed nerves and dealing with frazzled customer-service representatives. However, some companies are now taking the time to turn customer-service interactions into a strong point of competitive difference that makes consumers want to come back for more, especially when price and other considerations are basically equal.
A new program from the Center for Services Leadership at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is designed to help make your service experiences better. It’s also meant to help improve relationships between participating companies and the firms they work with, such as suppliers, distributors and retailers.
“We worked with Honeywell to create a groundbreaking, totally online program aimed at making every single customer-service representative and field service representative completely focused on excellent service,” says Associate Professor Nancy Stephens of the W. P. Carey School of Business, faculty director of the program. “Honeywell Aerospace is the first company to decide to send every one of its customer-oriented representatives – 1,400 people — through the program. They want to make a very visible commitment to customer service, and other companies are looking at the program, too.”
“The partnership that’s come together between the W. P. Carey School’s Center for Services Leadership at ASU and Honeywell has really allowed us to put together a fantastic program that develops the customer-service skills for Honeywell Aerospace employees,” says Adrian Paull, Honeywell vice president for customer and product support.
Honeywell’s first class just graduated from the academy in late October, but the program can be customized by other firms. Some units are already being taken online by employees at other big-name companies.
“All companies have business-to-business relationships they want to nurture,” says W. P. Carey School of Business Dean Robert Mittelstaedt. “This new program creates an opportunity for them to really polish their customer-service skills, not only for the general public, but also for those B2B customers.”
The Center for Services Leadership helps well-known firms respond to the challenges faced as services have become a driving force in economies around the world, with less growth happening in products and manufacturing. The center’s member companies include household names like Boeing, FedEx, Honeywell Aerospace, IBM Global Services, Mayo Clinic, PetSmart, Siemens Industries, Southwest Airlines and State Farm Insurance Company.
“The companies looking at this program understand that it offers expertise from the center, including faculty instructors from the Top 30-ranked W. P. Carey School of Business,” says Professor Mary Jo Bitner, executive director of the center. “At the same time, the program is also extremely flexible, since it’s offered online. It allows for standardized training across all of a company’s worldwide locations and the chance for employees anywhere from Dallas to Shanghai to Berlin, to get out of their everyday mindsets and interact with each other and make things better for their customers.”
“Wherever we are in the world, we need to operate within the cultural boundaries of that area and provide customer service that is needed and expected by the people in that area,” says Eileen Barry, a customer support project manager at Honeywell. “The major change that the W. P. Carey School training has provided to me personally and at work each day is to always think of things through the customer’s eyes.”
Some courses in the program include “Listening to the Voice of the Customer,” “Designing Customer-Focused Service Processes,” and “Recovering from Service Failures.” The idea is to make customers happy and to address any customer disappointments with great recovery. Those who complete the program receive a certificate and are eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Arizona State University. These units are widely used as a measure of participation in non-credit, professional development courses.
For more information about the Center for Services Leadership or the new program, go to www.wpcarey.asu.edu/csl or call (480) 965-6201.