Like the birth of a human baby, the ideals of customer service in an organization go through a similar “birth-cycle.” From the moment of realization that there is a need for customer service to sustain competitiveness in business (Conception) to the actualization of an impressive customer service delivery process (Birth).

The following analogy provides a frame of reference to couples who are thinking of or wish to be parents and organizations that aspire to conceive an infallible service delivery standard. This article will also attempt to tell you what to expect whichever your objective may be.

Conception
The news of a new baby always puts couples into a tumultuous emotional roller coaster ride. The joy of discovering they’ve played a role in creating life brings about an emotional experience ranging from indescribable joy to gut-wrenching fear. Not unlike organizations that suddenly realize that the playing field in the ever raging war for customers has come down to one battle. The battle for exceptional service delivery standards that surpasses the competition.

This realization is usually accompanied by an organization-wide scramble to examine how they could have overlooked this overly essential “minor” detail in their grand strategy for market supremacy. The business emotions range from mass panic to the satisfaction of the basking individuals who are heard saying “I told you so…”

The First Trimester
The new about-to-be parents will find themselves in the first three months discovering the rude shock of morning sickness. They scour bookshop shelves and internet websites, accumulating as much information as they can in preparation for their baby. They will also begin conducting impromptu surveys with friends and family who have gone through this life-changing phenomenon every chance they get to compare notes.

The organization on the other hand, will begin the drafting of an ambitious strategy that will undoubtedly be spearheaded with uncovering what their competitors are doing; gaining market intelligence. Some organizations will look internally first and conduct a mystery shopping exercise to establish where they currently stand. Budgets will be approved into acquiring consultancy from experts in the field and researching what are the world-class benchmarks they should be soaring toward.

Both parents and organizations will accumulate so much data and information that they begin to be overwhelmed and start questioning the relevance of all this information. Morning sickness is also quite common among the corporate bigwigs at this point, where the fear of the competition overtaking them in getting to THE Customer causes their morning cappuccino to be regurgitated, forming a foam which always seems to be enviously fluffier on the competitor’s side.

The Second Trimester
A quiet lull descends upon pre-mummy and pre-daddy. They announce to their acquaintances in the most politically correct, “We are pregnant!” every chance they get. The excitement has died down and they are cruising through the pregnancy like it is the most natural thing in the world. The dire effect of complacency sets in.

“We have all the information”, announces the project head and the team takes their time in digesting all the information and coming up with a multiple pronged strategy to take this customer service “bull” by the horns. “Besides, launch date is still six months away.”

Many a countless days are spent in unyielding meetings navigating the corporate minefield of opinions, approvals and buy-ins. We begin to see a familiar routine fall into place of special sub-project team meetings, organization wide road shows to seek buy-in, numerous interviews with nameless individuals, inter-departmental roadblocks causing project jams; ad-hoc projects like these are put in the back seat and the most infamous of all, confusion of task delegation where no one claims ownership to difficult areas. The buzz and excitement is gone, project paralysis sets in where tasks are put through the motions like every other never-completing internal project.

The Third Trimester
Nervous anticipation is setting in for the parents-to-be. Will the baby be healthy? Does the baby have enough clothes? Should we breast feed or formula feed? The questions begin to take on a life of its own hounding your every waking moment and in your REM state. You suddenly take notice of articles in the newspapers on violence being committed against children, orphanages in need of assistance and on the brighter side, champion babies being put on show in the mass media puts a smile on your face. This is all becoming overwhelming.

Meanwhile, Mr. Project Head is updating the board on the strategy the organization should take in implementing the world-class-every customer delighting program. The project comes to life again. However, it is a fear that grips all the different sub-project teams. Have we done enough? Are we absolutely sure this will work? Do we really know what our customers want? What companies should we start sending our resumes to? A list of valid and real questions as the project moves closer toward launch. There is a mad scramble as strategies are reevaluated and data is rechecked for feasibility of launch.

Full Term
It is 36 weeks and there’s no sign of baby. You believe everything is in place and can’t be anymore readier for the birth of baby. It is a waiting game. Every little discomfort mother-to-be experiences sends both into a panic. Contingency plans are running through your heads preparing you for any eventuality.

The final presentation to the board goes well. You believe everything that can be done has already been done and no stone has been left unturned. The only thing left to do now is monitor and wait for the first CSS (Customer Satisfaction Survey) to be conducted. Pressure mounts as the organization expects revenues to skyrocket immediately with a massive wave of feedback detailing delighting experiences from customers. The internal reconnaissance teams (read internal audit team) are sent organization-wide to check on newly implemented customer policies compliance.

There’s so much chaos everywhere that true delivery of the aspired competition-beating service standard is no where to be seen.

Birth
An explosion of emotions overwhelms you, it is a wonderful experience and both your lives are changed hereon. For most it’s for the better. However, there are the over-paranoid parents who find this the toughest time as they ponder on the fate of their child in the years to come. More things to think about in between feeding times where you realize a lot of people snore while you’re sitting at your desk writing an article.

The first CSS results are in and everyone is on the edge of their seats. Again, questions are asked. Did it work? Did the external market intelligence company handling the survey ask the right questions? Was it good or bad? I wonder what happened to those resumes I sent out?

The results were only fair and there is a sense of loom over what the board will do. In keeping with corporate practice, there will undoubtedly be sacrifices and head hunters will be circling like scavengers. Post mortem sessions are conducted to get to the bottom of the lack of ROI on this expensive project. The results, no faults were found. So, what happened?

Revolutionary Customer Service Strategies are not born immediately, they take years and sometimes decades to achieve. However, you have to start somewhere. It is a challenging task to adjust attitudes of a whole organization and instant success is rare.

Dear parents and organizations out there, I’ve realized there is no predicting the future and the surrounding political, economic and cultural factors will constantly evolve and you will find many a time where you are faced with difficult challenges. Parents and organizations alike would do smart by being at their best at all times. Maintaining high standards and keep an eye open for every opportunity to delight that customer (or baby).

This article is dedicated to a newborn baby girl, Azelea Glory Ng Zi-Lin who made her father a beaming daddy on the 28th of May, 2004. She’s also showed him life is just like producing an ongoing PowerPoint® business presentation; there’s always another slide you can add to tell a story.

Ken Ng
CEO/Senior Managing Consultant