Just because you think you've fixed a problem for a customer doesn't mean the customer is satisfied. That's why Carol Brachman, customer-support manager for Systems Management Specialists (SMS), makes sure that every customer who reports a problem is called back several days later. SMS's clients work for companies that have outsourced their data processing and MIS functions to this 580-employee outfit, located in Santa Ana, Calif.

When an SMS technician or help-desk employee resolves a problem, the employee returns a completed-problem ticket to the help desk. Two or three days later, the help desk makes up to two attempts to reach the customer, to ensure that the problem is fully resolved. "Not all employees like the idea of outsourcing services, so as a provider of outsourced services, we feel perception management is crucial," says Brachman. "The extra callback gives customers another chance to vent and demonstrates our interest in serving them."

Brachman says the callback is more than just a tool to reduce fallout from problems--it's an opportunity to get comprehensive feedback on all aspects of SMS service. During the callback, clients are asked to rate their satisfaction with SMS service on a four-point scale. Open-ended comments are recorded. This information helps SMS improve the perceptions of the client's senior management.

Could the same results be achieved by calling back a small sample of customers? Brachman believes the extra time needed to call everyone is worth the effort. Sampling may give you feedback on your services, Brachman notes, but you won't manage perceptions of individual customers unless you contact them.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing