Learning from the Customer Service experts; Toyota

bayachtOne of best way of improving is learn from the experts in other industries. A few years ago, British Airways wanted to redesign club class on their planes, so they thought luxury in a small space. Who did they choose? A yacht designer.

disney queue 2When they redesigned check in layout, they went to Disney to look at how they managed queues. Some of the best ideas (such as serving meals on the ground to give customers more time to sleep on plane) came from staff and customers.

The other week, my car was serviced at the Toyota garage. I got chatting with manager and she explained how Toyota do customer service and some of the techniques. I am now reflecting on how we can use that in IT Service Delivery. There are so many parallels we can learn from.

  1. It’s really important to give a customer choices. Whist their requirements drive towards a solution, everything is designed to make sure customers feel they are engaged in and part of the decision. Do we do that, such as when a service request is raised for new IT equipment?
  2. They key to great service is reliable processes. It’s about making things consistent. The best customer facing staff does things naturally and every team has one or two natural individuals. Great customer facing organisations embed those techniques into processes so everyone does them. The example I always use is the phone call at 10am after my car has had a quick check over to put my mind at rest that there is nothing major wrong. A great idea embedded in process.
  3. Problem solving is about consistency of questions. Toyota use a very structured set of diagnostics questions. Do we do the same or is it reliant on the individual and their experience?
  4. Getting things right first time. One of the biggest challenges too much focus on simple metrics that drive the wrong behaviour. What is harder is creating a culture of focus on spending the extra time to get things right to save colleague’s time and hassle later on. Do we get that right?
  5. Interpersonal skills. Lots of training at Toyota is on how to work with customers, to calm them down when frustrated, to offer alternatives, to help them feel valued, to show empathy when a problem is due to end-user error (it may be obvious to us, but not to the customer). It’s also really important to run through basic checks e.g. if window does not work, check if the customer has pressed the window lock button by accident without making the customer feel stupid or patronised.
  6. Continuous Service Improvement. Toyota run regular team meetings where everyone brings one idea to improve service. The team then picks one to focus on and implement (rather than half doing lots of little things). This creates both continuous improvement and a sense of solutions invented and owned by the team (who know far better than their managers in most cases anyway!)

We then got onto how a Toyota Service Manager would run an IT help desk, how to deal with the different types of customers and other topics, but that’s a subject for another blog as this one is long enough.

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One thought on “Learning from the Customer Service experts; Toyota

  1. Pingback: Jac(ot) in a Box – Customer Experience for IT. | Mark Jacot

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