Exchanging Weekly Reports

Another complex problem that can be combatted with a relatively simple solution is dealing with the issues between customer service and product design / engineering. There is usually a lot of conflict (if there is any sort of communication) between customer service and the groups responsible for developing product. In many companies, the customer service department gets annoyed at the lack of responsiveness from product design and product design gets annoyed at customer service not telling them about what they need to do.

While the exact problems obviously vary from company to company, there are solutions. The main solution is to let each department know what the other is doing. There are a number of simple and relatively informal ways to do this.

My favorite way to encourage communication between customer service and other departments is simply by exchanging weekly reports. Most customer service departments prepare some sort of weekly report that outlines what they’ve been doing over the past week: what sort of issues they’ve been handling, who’s been resolving this, how successful they’ve been, what the most complaints are about, etc. These types of reports can be extremely valuable to other departments as well (for example, marketing).

Imagine how much insight product engineering could gain from such a report. They’ll see that customers complain about problems X a lot, which means they should probably look into fixing Y. The two aren’t always as directly related or easily fixed, but there is almost always something for each department to learn.

On the other hand, when product engineering lets customer service know what they’re up to, it provides the group with a new perspective. They can tell customers that the problem related to X is actually in the development pipeline and should be fixed with the next release due out next March. They can tell customers that yes, the company is listening to their feedback and their complaints are being addressed in the next development cycle. Customer service can use the knowledge to provide better solutions. If they know a certain problem isn’t going to be fixed for a year, they can invest in writing better documentation to explain it. If they know it’ll be fixed next week, they can invest their time and effort elsewhere.

This is a simple solution that can produce great results. It’s more about keeping communication open than anything. When departments know what other departments are doing, it’ll allow them to make better decisions and be more productive.

2 Responses to “Exchanging Weekly Reports”

  1. Haim Toeg said:

    Jun 10, 08 at 12:51 pm

    I think the concept that sharing reports would cause something to happen with them is fairly naive. If there is no robust review and discussion process behind this, as well as setting of goals and discussion of accomplishments the reports would stay in the recipient’s inbox and forgotten there.

  2. Service Untitled » Product Defect Meetings - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jul 08, 08 at 10:07 pm

    […] challenge of fostering effective communication between engineers and customer service is a problem for a lot of companies. I think a regular […]