root cause

Challenges Create Opportunity, People Create Change - 4/20/21


There are so many great things that have been said over the years about overcoming challenges, pushing aside the roadblocks of life, dealing with difficulties.  And these are important points of discussion because challenges are all around us.  There are challenges with our personal health or in our personal Read more

The Passive Predicament - 4/13/21


The employee is speaking to you.  Do they have that look in the eyes like they’re hanging on your every word, like they’re processing, interpreting, and getting ready to quickly respond to your key points and questions?  Or do they have the look of somebody in the 2nd hour Read more

Regain Lost Motivation - 4/6/21


For many of us over the last 12 months, our home has also become our workplace.  Our work interaction has been 2-dimensional through the computer screen as opposed to the 3-dimensional experiences we’re used to with co-workers and customers. We are all motivated in our own unique ways.  Some are Read more

The Answer is Right, but the Service is Wrong - 3/30/21


Maggie was irate.  The gift she ordered needed to be received by the 20th of the month so she could give it to her cousin for his birthday.  It was the 19th, and Maggie couldn’t find any shipping update online, so she called the company.  The employee said “Oh!  Read more

Question Everything, but What’s the Question? - 3/23/21


The new leader joins the organization, and she decides she wants to question everything.  She wants employees to question everything.  Why have we always done it this way? Why do we continue to do it that way? Is this the best way to work? Sometimes it’s a great management Read more

The Resourceful Rep - 3/16/21


One of our clients is seeking to develop Customer Service Standards.  We’re working with them to identify those key expectations of staff that will enable the organization to deliver a consistent high-level customer experience.  One of the key attributes that this organization is seeking from its team members is Read more

Be Proactive like a Pro - 3/9/21


We constantly work with clients, encouraging them to become more proactive with customers.  Don’t just be reactive, waiting for the customer to ask questions or to complain.  Instead, go to the customer, anticipate their needs, suggest something to them. But many of us, frankly, don’t know how to be proactive.  Read more

Find One Unique Thing - 3/2/21


Many of us are not in a position to develop long-term relationships with our customers.  Our encounters are often one-time only with a customer - very brief and likely to be our only time chatting with this individual. And even though there may not be a long-term professional relationship developed, Read more

Should I Stay or Should I Go? - 2/23/21


Should I stay or should I go?  That’s not just a classic song by The Clash.  It’s also the question customers ask more and more, especially during difficult economic times. A recent study in the Charlotte Business Journal noted that 50% of North Carolina businesses are concerned with how to Read more

Optimism – A Force for Good in Customer Service - 2/16/21


Will 2021 be a better year than 2020?  I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe it would be nice to see into the future and know for certain, but I can’t and I don’t.  But as I wade further and further into this year, I can hope that the water Read more

Culture can be the Root of City Government Service Issues

Posted on in Business Advice, Government Please leave a comment

Blog 9-4-14In too many local municipalities, when the call volume increases for the contact center, you simply hire more staff. When loud complaints arise, politicians make speeches echoing the community’s concerns. When the pipes burst, you create a laundry list of solutions without first identifying the root cause.

That last example of reaction in local government happened in Winnipeg recently. According to the article Customer service at Winnipeg city hall should be a priority for our new mayor, last winter’s occurrence of bursting pipes for local residents required reorganizing their 311 call center, better dealing with their infrastructure, and realizing that some things are just natural disasters.

But according to the article’s author, what really made the problem so exceptionally bad were factors including “The city failed to identify the problem soon enough, failed to notify homeowners about what they could do to prevent freezing, failed to acquire enough equipment and manpower to thaw pipes, and failed to provide affected homeowners with the help they needed in a timely manner.”

These are issues of lack of measurement, lack of proactive communication, lack of community education, lack of long-term planning/thinking, and lack of responsiveness. In short, it was poor customer service and a lack of a customer-focused culture. Our company has seen often with our clients (in public and private sectors) issues become far worse than necessary. The issues were difficult enough to address, but the reaction to the issue often exacerbates the problem. Organizations that don’t understand how to create an aligned culture focused on service and responsiveness get caught when the issues arise.

They don’t anticipate. They don’t empathize. They don’t react well or quickly. They don’t communicate proactively. They don’t succeed.

Sometimes great “PR” for a local government is not just about having an excellent communications department. Sometimes great PR is a direct result of a culture that’s great in the 1-on-1 Moments of Truth with their residents.

When seeking to improve relationships with the community, local city and county governments first need to ensure their culture is designed to succeed.

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Getting at the Root of Patient Satisfaction Issues

Posted on in Business Advice, Healthcare Please leave a comment

When a patient shares with her doctor that she has a sore throat, he begins asking questions to learn more about the soreness – this symptom with a deeper root cause. When a patient goes to the Emergency Room with chest pain, staff run tests to determine the cause – to address the symptom and determine a course of action based on the cause.

When patients present ailments, injuries, aches and pains, medical professionals look to not only address the symptom, but they also want to get at the root cause. Resolve the root cause, and the symptoms go away.

In Roach: Patient Satisfaction Crucial To Hospitals’ Success, soon-to-be hospital CEO Steven Roach addresses the need to improve patient satisfaction. But he’s not talking about conducting Disney training and implementing valet parking. He’s talking about the fact that many patients either visit the facility to get treated in the Emergency Department and discharged, or they are inpatients who were admitted through the E.D. Since the E.D. is experienced by so many, it not only has a huge impact on the patient’s perceptions, but it also impacts patient waits, work flow, productivity, and hospital financials.

And along with addressing the E.D. experience, Roach takes the next step – looking at root causes. Many E.D. issues with wait times and delays are the result of demand for services that should be provided elsewhere – out of the hospital setting and often by primary care doctors. This is what we call “Demand Management.” Instead of ONLY asking “How do we handle the volume we receive?” ask “How do we reduce the volume we receive?”

If your hospital or organization has process and wait time issues, you can bring in management consultants and process experts to do workflow redesign, but also think about what’s driving that demand, and find ways to redirect or reduce demand for high cost services.

Move from the symptom to the true root cause.

Did you like this post? Here are other Healthcare-related posts:


City Gets at the Root of Water Shut-off Issues

Posted on in Business Advice, Government Please leave a comment

“If they would just read their mail…”

This is a statement I hear from a lot of clients when talking about their customers (oftentimes, it’s “if they would just read their e-mails…”). The problem with the statement is that it can put the entire blame for an issue on the customer, when businesses need to be asking “What can we control? What can we impact?”

Staff at the City of Marysville were having an issue. The number of water shutoffs was increasing each week – up to 80-100 from half that number. This was driving more work for the staff and obviously irate feelings from City residents. The City initially blamed the economy and an auto-dialer notification system that didn’t work with cell phones, but that was just a theory. And to more permanently fix a problem, you need to determine the root cause.

To get at the root cause, they asked the customers about the issue. Customers thought they hadn’t received the bill even though they had received it. The problem was that the bill looked just like any other document – non-descript. The shut-off warnings were also non-descript. So how do you remedy this? An article on the story notes “The UB Team discussed several options to remedy this, and eventually settled on a cycle of three bills in different colors during the standard bi-monthly billing period: first a white notice, followed by a pink late notice for past due, then a yellow shutoff notice that warned that water would be shut off if payment wasn’t completed or arrangements made with the Utility Billing Department.”

The number of shut-offs now average under 30 per month.

When you have an issue, don’t assume the root cause and solution. Don’t immediately blame the customer, even if you communicated to them. The question is – did they notice, understand, and act on the communication? If not, what’s within your control to improve communications?

You can’t control the customer; but don’t use that as an excuse for not looking at your own options for improvement.

Interested in improving your organization’s customer service? See our other blog posts at: http://serviceadvice.cssamerica.com/category/government/

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