Dealing with big changes.

The other day I read about a company that was changing the way they did business.

Previously, they had owned all of their servers in a datacenter that they leased. After a lot of thought and planning, they decided they would move to a company that already had a datacenter, change their hardware, and so on. It was a rather big decision and will likely affect the company for many years to come. As I read about this major change, I thought about what a customer service challenge it would be. A gigantic one, no doubt.

So how should a company handle a big change like this? Very carefully to say the least.

Explain the benefits.
A big part of dealing with a such big change is explaining the benefits to your current customers. Tell them how the moves will help them – how will it enable them to make more money, get faster service, etc. For the particular situation I mentioned, customers would notice better performance and reliability. Pretty good benefits.

Pace yourself.
Big moves take time, so don’t rush. It is okay to spend several months getting the details sorted out and doing the moves. Customers would rather have you spend the extra time planning so things work when the time comes. If you don’t have a specific reason for moving (as in the current building isn’t burning down – you just want to upgrade), you can and should definitely take your time.

Constantly update customers.
It is critical to constantly update customers about where you are with these big changes. Explain what has happened so far, what is going to happen soon, how things are going, and so on. The more they know, hopefully the better they will feel.

Provide lots of self-help.
Setup an in-depth FAQ, a knowledge base category specially about the move, a timeline calculator, a special forum, whatever. That way, customers can get lots of information and utilize tools to learn more. Plus, they don’t have to contact you and ask if they can help themselves.

Provide lots of service.
The above doesn’t mean you should eliminate the human element of your service. Firstly, you should setup separate contacts for the big move. You need a email address, a special live chat department, another phone extension, and so on. That way, day-to-day customer service inquires won’t see any delay because of the big move. Or, it’ll be separated and hopefully more organized. You will probably need to hire more people to help out during the big change – be prepared.

Have one on one help.
Before moves or other changes related to specific customers, contact them. It can be a simple email or even better, a phone call. Go over what they need to do, when they need to do it, and what they should look out for. This way, the customer has a fresh understanding of exactly what will happen and what they need to do.

Follow up.
Once you’ve done the move for the particular customer, follow up. Follow up after 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days, and 3 months. After those four follow ups, the customer will be well convinced that you want to make sure everything went well and is doing okay.

Perhaps the best advice related to these big changes is don’t do them. They are quite a pain and an inconvenience for everyone. However, business is always changing and they are often inevitable.

One Response to “Dealing with big changes.”

  1. Service Untitled » How Yahoo! Dealt With A Big Change - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Oct 24, 07 at 10:52 pm

    […] An area of customer service that really interests me is how companies deal with really big changes. I wrote a post about this back in May and it is a post I find myself consistently sending to clients. What a big change is is of course relative, but companies of all sizes find themselves undergoing big changes all the time. […]