Regardless of the industry, a company’s clients should always be top priority. As president of a leading evaluation service that works with manufacturing clientele, I understand the need for ICC Evaluation Service (ICC-ES) to remain a client-centric conformity assessment body. When I became president of ICC-ES, my first objective was to shift the company to a customer-first culture while keeping the high quality of the ICC-ES reports and listings intact. That meant prioritizing the turnaround time and listening closely to our clients’ needs.
Here are five lessons learned from my experience to help enhance your customer service program and build a good reputation in your industry.
1. Listen to your clients. You cannot improve if you do not know what to improve upon, and your clients are normally your most honest critics. My first step in building a customer-first program was to talk with our clients and understand what they wanted. As a result, I overhauled the existing Industry Advisory Committee to encourage participation from manufacturers of a variety of sizes with a variety of built environment products, and to gather meaningful feedback on a regular basis. Of course, when you listen, you may hear comments that you didn’t expect and perhaps didn’t want – which leads us to tip number two.
2. Don’t be afraid to change. For years, ICC-ES was offering one type of service to clients – an evaluation report for products in the built environment. After listening to our clients, we found out that manufacturers have different conformity assessment needs. Some would like products listed to an available consensus standard. Others would like to certify to the codes and standards in Canada and Mexico. I stand by the old Burger King slogan, “Have it your way.” Because of the feedback we received from our customers, ICC-ES had to change. We began to offer additional listing services and to expand our geographic footprint. Adding these services was a lengthy and challenging process, but it was a priority for the ICC-ES team. Change is difficult, but sometimes it is necessary.
3. Value the client’s project timeline and launch date. As I am sure you have heard before, time is money. Find ways to speed up your processes and deliver products and services more quickly. At ICC-ES, we have worked diligently to increase the speed of our product evaluation process. Even with the industry’s most rigorous review process, we have been able to reduce the time it takes to complete a product evaluation from 25 months to 8 to 9 months on average. A speedier product evaluation timeline makes our customers happy and allows them to get their innovative products to market sooner and make money faster. We also optimized our IT system and our business software to improve speed and better serve our customers.
4. Training, training, training. Moving to a customer-centric model requires extensive staff training because good customer service is a skill. No one in the organization should be exempt. At ICC-ES, all of our staff members, including me, went through an extensive training process focused on strengthening empathy, patience, consistency, adaptability and clear communication. After all, as the business author Tony Alessandra said, “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.”
5. Keep evolving. This means different things to different businesses, but the key element is that there is always room for improvement. In the past few years, we have developed new partnerships and added a number of new program offerings including an expedited listing service and a digital code linkage feature for our reports. In order to continue to keep the quality of products high and compete effectively with other companies, evolution is necessary.