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如何应对客户的“不情之请”?

对那些不符合公司标准化流程的客户要求“说不”,可能会诱使客户转投竞争对手的怀抱,进而导致公司丧失潜在的巨大商机。

Photo by Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

致力于削减成本的全球公司,都在想方设法提高公司流程的效率。许多公司都推出了精心设计的系统,希望流程变得简单,并保持坚定的一致性。但如果客户打来电话,提出一个不同寻常的要求,恰好和公司的条条框框不符,又会如何?

固安捷(Grainger)副总裁德布·欧勒承认,几年前,对于客户的这种要求,公司客服专员还是会斩钉截铁地说“不”。固安捷是一家全球维护、维修与运营产品经销商,最近投入了巨资对内部流程进行改造。

欧勒表示:“规模庞大、结构复杂,在全球拥有数百万客户,客户单次消费250美元左右,这样的公司往往会有一套非常标准的客户开票流程。”“你不可能突然之间便能做出改变,让你有57种方式处理这种情况。所以,我们不禁要问,哪种方式既具有成本效益,又能支持公司做好该做的事情呢?”

固安捷的员工在无法找到能满足客户需求的解决方案时,习惯于对客户说“不”。欧勒面临的问题非常清楚:固安捷需要从习惯说“不”的文化,转变为说“是”的文化。

但死板的流程只是问题的一部分。谈到公司为客户服务的职责(包括为医院、交通枢纽和政府提供防护装备和其他安全产品等)时,欧勒说道:“这家公司在埃博拉病毒爆发期间表现出出色的灵活性。“但如果经常与我们打交道的老客户提出了一些不同以往的要求,我们可能会令所有人失望。”

乍一看,对客户说“不”让固安捷付出的代价似乎并不大。给公司打电话提出特殊要求的客户数量很少——可能每天只有一两例。但有些要求却可能代表了更大的商机,其潜力或许超过了公司250美元的平均销售额。有些客户会转而投入竞争对手怀抱,因为固安捷没有努力满足他们的需求。

埃森哲咨询公司运营咨询总监马克·皮尔森在《哈佛商业评论》上发表的一篇文章中指出,许多公司在努力保持灵活性,特别是当前,提高效率和加强以客户为中心这一发展目标所带来的压力与日俱增。他的团队在《价值驱动的业务流程管理》一书中阐述了对这个话题的研究结果。他们发现,不足20%的业务流程能让一家公司脱颖而出,获得客户青睐——但如果公司不能收集客户反馈,并根据这些信息做出调整,这些流程就会有过时的风险。

欧勒意识到,固安捷需要的是一个中心位置,可以迅速并且更灵活地应对客户的独特要求。于是,“Yes Desk”团队在2012年底应运而生。如果客户提出的要求无法在固安捷的合理化系统中得到解决,这些要求将被转交给Yes Desk。这个团队负责研究在24小时内对客户问题给出肯定答复的可行性与成本效益。

公司高层很快意识到,仅有Yes Desk还不够:员工需要改变他们处理问题的方式,从以往“照章办事”的思维方式,向更开放的探究式思维转变。

欧勒说道:“我们必须养成习惯,问客户:‘您希望解决什么问题?’而不是仅局限于用蓝墨水打印出来的客户要求。这是一种心态和文化上的转变。”

要在全公司内进行这种转变需要付出巨大努力,但结果却非常喜人。Yes Desk团队有一套沿用至今的沟通策略,其中包含播客、电子邮件和市政厅式会议,帮助固安捷团队的成员了解Yes Desk团队的目的,以及在日常与客户打交道的过程中,如何与这个团队配合。

固安捷也开始跟踪使用过Yes Desk的所有人。高层很快发现,有些团队提交了许多问题,但有些团队却没有提交问题。固安捷会定期举行活动,庆祝那些能够更灵活处理客户要求的团队成员所取得的成功,宣传将Yes Desk的理念付诸实施的员工,希望借此鼓励和转变冷眼旁观的人。管理层开始在员工会议上宣传Yes Desk的绩效。他们甚至会把帮助满足客户特殊要求的支持人员,介绍给其他领导者。

欧勒说道:“通常有些人曾帮助过公司,但之前却从未得到过任何表彰。现在的作法可以激励员工。”

客户互动迅速增加,员工积极性也随之提高。随着越来越多客户提出具体的要求,固安捷也开始改革其内部流程,以适用这种变化。固安捷意识到,设立这个团队并不意味着要“对每一件事都说‘是’”,而是依旧要保证盈利能力。

欧勒说道:“客户看到我们的开放态度,知道我们愿意考虑他们提出的任何要求。而且,即便我们不得不说‘不’,我们也会尽量及时作出回应,使客户可以寻找其他途径。这与我们之前的文化截然相反。”

欧勒表示,截至九月份,Yes Desk已经处理了超过800项要求,预计今年处理的问题将超过1000个。这一团队为固安捷创造了超过1.8亿美元的销售机会。现在的Yes Desk有两名全职员工。虽然人数不多,但他们背后有庞大的固安捷员工队伍做后盾,每个人都致力于积极解决客户非标准化的问题。

欧勒说道:“我们与客户的对话方式已经发生了改变。我们希望客户有问题时首先想到我们。”

实现大的变化

对于如何在公司内落实大规模改革,领导力专家通常各持己见,但固安捷的德布·欧勒向高管们建议,改革要尽量简单,应该专注于员工的行为。在她的团队行之有效的主要做法包括:

- 跟踪接受和未接受新行为的员工。

- 表彰在同事当中做出表率的个人。

-鼓励管理者与员工进行一对一交流,讨论绩效,指导员工突破障碍。

- 抓住机会庆祝成功。(财富中文网)

本文作者凯斯·法拉奇为研究型战略咨询公司Ferrazzi Greenlight的CEO,并著有《别独自用餐》(Never Eat Alone)和《谁可依靠》(Who's Got Your Back?)等。本文作者戴维·威尔基为私人高管交流社区World 50的CEO。

译者:刘进龙/汪皓

审校:任文科

 

Global companies keen on cutting costs are trying to make their processes more efficient any way they can. Many firms have created highly engineered systems that drive toward simplicity and unwavering consistency. But what happens when a customer calls with an unusual request that doesn’t fit into a neat, tidy, little box?

Until just a few years ago, what Grainger’s customers got was a big, fat “no” from the company’s customer service associates, admits Deb Oler, a vice president at Grainger GWW 0.23% , a global distributor of maintenance, repair, and operating products, and it has invested heavily in streamlining its internal processes.

“Big, complex companies with millions of customers doing $250 sales at a time generally have a pretty standard way of billing people,” says Oler. “You can’t, all of a sudden, change it so you have 57 different ways of doing it. So how do you do it in a way that’s cost effective and still allows you to do what you do as a business?”

Grainger employees had grown used to telling customers “no” when they couldn’t find solutions that met their needs. To Oler, the problem was clear: Grainger needed to change from being a “no culture” to a “yes culture.”

But rigid processes were only part of the problem. “So here’s this company that’s great at flexing during the Ebola outbreak,” says Oler, referring to Grainger’s role in serving customers, including hospitals, transportation hubs, and the government, to provide protective gear and other safety products. “But if you’re a regular customer who does business with us all the time, and you ask for something a little different, we would frustrate everyone.”

At a glance, the cost of saying “no” didn’t seem too steep at Grainger. The number of customers calling the company with uncommon requests was pretty small—maybe two per day. But some of the individualized requests represented the potential for much bigger business than the company’s $250 average sale. And some of those customers were giving their business to competitors because Grainger couldn’t stretch to meet their needs.

Many companies struggle to be flexible, particularly in the face of the increased pressure to grow more efficient and customer-centric, wrote Mark Pearson, head of operations consulting at Accenture, in an article for Harvard Business Review. His team’s research on the topic, which was featured in a book they published titled Value-Driven Business Process Management, found that less than 20% of business processes make a company stand out among its customers—yet, processes risk becoming obsolete if companies don’t collect customer feedback and make adjustments based on that information.

What Grainger needed, Oler realized, was a central place that would quickly, and more flexibly, respond to customers’ unique requests. This led to the birth of the “Yes Desk” in late 2012. Whenever a customer wanted something that couldn’t be done within Grainger’s streamlined systems, it was forwarded to the Yes Desk. This team was charged with looking into the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of responding with a “yes” to a customer problem within 24 hours.

The company’s senior leaders soon learned that the Yes Desk wasn’t enough, though: Employees needed to change the way they handled problems, shifting their usual “follow-the-procedures” way of thinking to a more open, inquiring approach.

“We had to get into the habit of asking the customer, ‘What is the problem you’re trying to solve?’ instead of focusing narrowly on a request to print in blue ink,” Oler says. “It was a mindset and cultural shift.”

Making that kind of change on a companywide scale took significant effort, but the results were worth it. There was a communication strategy around the Yes Desk – which continues today – that included a combination of podcasts, emails, and town halls to help Grainger team members understand the Yes Desk’s purpose and how to engage with it as part of their daily routine with customers.

Grainger also began to track all the people who used the Yes Desk. Senior managers quickly saw that some teams submitted many requests while others submitted none. Grainger regularly celebrated the successes of team members who were more flexible with requests, giving visibility to those who brought the concept of the Yes Desk to life, hoping to encourage – and convert – the cynics. Managers started bringing up Yes Desk results in meetings with employees. They even told other leaders about support staff who had helped meet unusual customer requests.

“These were often people who had never gotten any recognition before for being a part of helping the business,” says Oler. “It energized people.”

Customer engagement soared and employee engagement rose alongside it. And as more customers’ made specific requests, Grainger began to change its internal procedures to accommodate them. Grainger came to realize that the approach meant it wasn’t a “yes to everything desk” but one that still ensured profitability.

“Customers see we are open and willing to consider whatever it is that they’re trying to get done,” says Oler. “And if in fact we’re going to say, ‘no,’ we do it quickly so they can move on. That was exactly the opposite of what our culture was before.”

As of September, the Yes Desk has worked through more than 800 requests and is on pace to handle more than 1,000 queries this year, Oler says. Overall, it has helped create more than $180 million in sales opportunities for Grainger. The Yes Desk now has two full-time employees. But the small staff is bolstered by a large community of Grainger workers focused on leading with “yes” to customers’ nonstandard questions.

“It has changed the dialogue with the customer,” says Oler. “We want them to come to us first when they have a problem.”

Making Big Changes Happen

While leadership experts often disagree on how to make a big change take hold, and stick, at a company, Grainger’s Deb Oler advises executives to keep the change simple and focus on employee behavior. Key elements that worked for her team include:

—Tracking who adopted the new behavior – and who didn’t.

—Recognizing individuals who were early role models in front of their peers.

—Encouraging managers to meet one-on-one with employees to discuss results and coach them through barriers.

—Taking advantage of opportunities to celebrate success.

Keith Ferrazzi is the CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a research-based strategic consulting firm, and the author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back?. David Wilkie is the CEO of World 50, a private community for senior executives to share ideas.

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