Tag Archives: IBM Global Services

customer.service

ASU Center becomes a resource to teach service

Customer service was once viewed as the cost of doing business.

“Across almost every industry, leaders are focusing on service as a way to compete in today’s competitive marketplace,” says Mary Jo Bitner, academic director for the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business.

But times have changed. Companies that are in search of new revenue streams are finding that in addition to providing great customer service, offering value-added services to their product lines are helping their bottom lines. And the help them make the most of the opportunities, many are seeking help from the ASU Center, which focuses on research and executive education in managing and marketing services.

“Customer demand and the competitive challenges posed by the commoditization of many products has pushed many goods-based companies to take another look at services as a source of revenue and profit,” says Stephen Brown, director of the Center for Services Leadership, who has spent the past 20 years tracking the growing importance of services as a product. “Many are following market leaders to become goods-and-services companies.”

For example, Boeing has broadened its offerings by adding the lucrative market of services to its aircraft manufacturing. The Hewlett Packard and Compaq merger created a new company whose major product is services. IBM’s impressive financials over the past decade — in shining contrast to its competitors — were largely the result of its service businesses.

“In 2001, we were launching our first fee-based service business,” says Steve Church, president of Avnet Integrated and chief corporate business development and planning officer. “We wanted to offer more services and solutions. We knew a lot, but there was a lot we didn’t know.”

Church says Avnet’s membership in the center — which concentrates on expanding service innovation by combining the latest scientific insights from the academic world with the best of business strategy in the real world — allowed the company to “build a culture of service excellence that focuses on the customer and gives each a great customer experience.”

The Center, which was created in 1985, remains the only one of its kind in the United States, devoted to research and education in the services field.  Its research findings form the foundation of the Center’s executive education program, attended by managers and executives of leading firms.  Member companies include AT&T, Charles Schwab and Co., Ford Motor Company, IBM, Mayo Clinic and others, who sponsor research, fund scholarships, host MBA student teams and participate in executive education.

Many member companies sponsor research that is published in academic journals, and shared at the Center’s executive education forums. Bitner, for example, has been studying the effects of self-service technologies (SST), working with Ford and a major pharmaceutical benefits management company.

“The Center is really a tremendous resource for any company that has a strategy to to improve customer serve or add services to augment its products,” Church says. “We learned that by getting our employees engaged in customer service, we built customer loyalty, it helped us compete, and it enhanced our financial performance.”

customer.service

Help to ease Holiday Shopping Customer-Service Worries

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.