Calling time on assumptions

What is the UK’s highest mountain peak? Hands up all those who said Ben Nevis? Sorry but you are wrong; the answer is Mount Hope which at 3,239m is more than twice the height of Ben Nevis. Now, if like this writer, you’ve never heard of Mt. Hope and are frantically reviewing your internal map of the UK then it may pay to think a little outside the box; or at least the immediate confines of these shores. Mt. Hope can be found in a part of the Antarctic which is claimed by the UK and as one of the British Overseas Territories falls under the sovereignty of the UK.

Admittedly, although under UK sovereignty the area doesn’t strictly speaking form part of the UK. So our question might have been better phrased as what is the highest mountain peak within UK sovereignty. But that would not only have given the game away, it wouldn’t have made you think and question your assumptions. And questioning assumptions is something which we all could probably do a little more, particularly when it comes to business.

The trouble is that it can be all too easy to assume and to make decisions based on those assumptions. Half the time we aren’t even aware that that is what we are doing. We think we know our trade and even when we carry out research the questions we ask are based on underlying assumptions. So the statistics tell us that x% of our customers call on our services on a Monday morning but they don’t tell us why. Is it because Monday is a convenient time to call, or perhaps it is because a problem arose at the weekend but we weren’t around when needed. Or maybe the Monday call is a sign of customers thinking ahead, replenishing stocks or preparing for a busy week.

Whatever the answer; the more assumptions we make, the further we are likely to be from the truth. That’s why it sometimes pays to sit back and to ask; to revert to those childlike ‘why’ questions which force us to examine fundamental aspects of our business. For example, why do people phone us; is it because they really need to or because we are not providing the right level of information on our website or in literature. And when people phone, does the phone number we are offering really resonate with them and attract them to call or is it seen as a grudging ‘take it or leave it’ option.

Then there is the matter of call handling. Does the fact that there are no complaints really make our call handling process fit for purpose or are the lack of complaints symptomatic of the fact that customers are so inured to poor service that they don’t bother to provide feedback? And even if the feedback is positive, could we be doing more; providing a more streamlined or flexible call handing experience which encourages greater interaction?

When we apply a more questioning approach not only to telephony but also to our other processes and procedures it opens up a whole range of possibilities. Some of these fall under the customer experience banner but others will impact on areas such as profitability or reputation. The key to success is not only to open up the questions but also to really listen to the answers. Just because we’ve always done it this way is no excuse to avoid change.

Written by Alison