The 8 Wastes of Customer Service

Here are 8 wastes of customer service—inspired by the Toyota Lean Manufacturing system as used by today’s process experts.

Lean Processes

Waste is defined as anything that does not create value for a customer or colleague. Finding and eliminating waste in your service can cut costs and improve customer experience.

Waste goes unnoticed over time. Often we do something, again and again, as we always have, until we no longer see its impact. We must keep asking ourselves “Are we wasting value for our customers?”

Study your service transactions closely and consider the following:

1. Where is the service you promise getting delayed?

Standing in queues, waiting on hold, late shipments, postponed meetings, and slow downloads. These are a few examples of delays your customers may experience. How do your customers feel when delayed? Where can you reduce delays in your transactions?

2. Where can you eliminate duplication for your customers and colleagues?

Having to repeat information or actions may be required for your internal process, but it’s frustrating for customers and colleagues. Filling out multiple forms, providing account numbers twice, giving your name over and over, returning when the manager is in, or being transferred to yet another person to explain the same issue. Have you ever used an online service site only to be told you must call the service center? Where can you streamline access and information to make your customers’ experience easier and faster?

3. How can you reduce the movements needed to receive your service?

I was recently in a government office. I walked back and forth between various offices to complete my transaction. Do your people waste time going back and forth between departments? Office locations? Meetings? Does frustration build with each move? How can you move people closer to service – creating a “path of least resistance?” How will your customers react?

4. Unclear Communication. Where can you make communication easier?

Written proposals, instructions, agreements, social media and visual signage are a few places to look. Speaking clearly, respecting language differences, and non-verbal communication are just as important as the accuracy of your content. Where can you provide more clarity for your customers?

5. Incorrect Inventory (and Incorrect Information). How can you ensure you have the right products and the right information for customers when they need it? Out of stock products, expired offers, outdated information, or not knowing answers to common questions. Items on the menu at your favorite restaurant consistently not available. Your order from an online grocery has substituted items. How can you keep an up-to-date supply of the right products and the right information to exceed customer expectations? How do your customers react when you are ready with what they need?

6. Where are we making mistakes? Are we making the same mistakes?

Not getting what is promised won’t delight a customer. Nor will incorrect information. Set up systems to track errors and look for areas where they can be reduced or eliminated.

7. Lost Opportunity. When do customers walk away because service behavior is poor?

Call center staff being apathetic or even rude. Employees complaining to each other and not paying attention to their customers. These behaviors will lose clients forever. Are you paying enough attention to your customer interactions? How do you hire, enable, and encourage your team members to deliver exceptional service?

8. Human Potential. Are you developing and empowering your people to delight customers?

Wasting your people’s potential undermines all other efforts to create value. If every employee understands customers and can make decisions to add value, you can deliver a streamlined and uplifting service experience. Command and control management does not work here. Do your managers make all the decisions, even simple ones? Allow your staff members to be truly empowered to respond to customer requests and create valuable outcomes.

Studying areas of wasted opportunity in customer service is powerful way to improve your service to customers and to colleagues.

About the Author

Jeff ​Eilertsen writes for Ron Kaufman’s “UP Your Service!” website. Ron Kaufman believes service to others is the essence of humanity and is author of the New York Times bestseller Uplifting Service and 14 other books on service, business, and inspiration, with sales exceeding 500,000 copies.

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