By Roy Barnes, Bob Kelleher

At the root of most frustrating customer experiences is decentralized, uncoordinated service. Exhausting cycles of telephone tag, endless explanations to countless service representatives, and circular referrals to rude, faceless, and uninformed customer-facing employees are all sure-fire ways for a customer to lose patience — and for your company to lose customers.

The solution? One-stop customer service and problem resolution. The benefits are twofold:

  • Your customer can complete her business with your company with a single point of contact.

  • Your company can better allocate resources, increase operational efficiency, and simultaneously improve customer experience and satisfaction.

So how do you achieve this? Here are a few broad suggestions:

  • Attempt to resolve your customer’s problem in a single phone call or email exchange. Don’t shuffle her from one representative to another.

  • If your customer is visiting you in person, have all the necessary information, approvals, products, and services available to you at that location. Always think one-stop shopping!

  • Have a customer deal with one staff member or, at a minimum, one team of representatives who are dedicated to satisfying her needs. If you go with the team approach, make sure the team can maintain a continuous dialogue with the customer.

    That is, have each team member take notes and develop next steps as they work with the customer, and have them pass that information on to other team members. Your goal? To ensure there are no gaps in the conversation and that the customer is never asked the same question twice.

One company that has adopted the one-stop customer service approach is the Ritz Carleton. At the Ritz Carleton, any employee who receives a complaint from an unhappy customer “owns” that complaint. Even if she can’t fix the problem directly, she assumes responsibility for the complaint and works rapidly behind the scenes to resolve it. She is the one who then responds to the customer and ensures that the problem is resolved to the customer’s complete satisfaction.