Yesterday, I posted an interest-sparking discussion about using technology to be more transparent. Today I’m following up on that to explain further how technology can assist with transparency and customer service in general. First, I explain what I want out of a customer service relationship and how it fits with transparency. Second, I explain how technology aids in transparency.
First, I have three goals for customer service:
I want to establish a working relationship with students, staff, and faculty that is founded on trust. Transparency assists me in doing that by giving those people control. If they can see everything they need to see, hopefully they will not assume I have a hidden agenda to screw up their lives. Hopefully, they will see enough information to know I’m working in their favour – I’m on their side, trying to help.
Transparency helps develop responsibility on both sides of the relationship. I must be responsible in the customer service relationship because it will be pretty easy to lift my kilt and see what’s not there! But transparency also promotes responsibility amongst my clients because they know the next step that needs to be taken and who should take that next step. If they’re supposed to make that step, they need to know it.
Transparency develops competence in a similar way to responsibility. I am forced to be competent because if I’m not, the X-Ray glasses the client wears will see through any of my attempts to hide incompetence. The client is encouraged to be competent for the same reason – if they’re supposed to do something, it’s out in the open and we both know it. But transparency also shows the client the inner workings of the Office and the next time they need to be served, they’ll have an even greater level of competence, knowing what to do.
Second, how does technology help make this happen?
Perhaps an example is best. In the old days, if you needed to order an official transcript to be sent to another university or to a potential employer, you had to physically come to the office, stand in line, get a paper form, fill out the form, submit the form and pay for the transcript. You stood in front of a large, imposing desk, and the person who took the form from you stuffed the form into a file folder in a locked file drawer.
Hidden from view.
Out of sight.
Did it get processed? Was the transcript ever printed? Did it get mailed?
You wouldn’t know. Your application might be sitting on a desk at University of Smogaria waiting for a transcript to make it complete, but the only way you’d know if the process happened or not was when U Smog contacted you to say, “You’ve been admitted” or “Your file is incomplete so we can’t admit you.”
Ah, but here’s where technology allows you to see. If I develop an online transcript ordering tool, I should develop it so that you can see what your transcript looks like, what it says on it, how much it will cost, how long it will take to be sent, and what options there are for sending it. Once you complete the order, you should be able to see when the order was received, when it was processed, and when it was sent. And, if I’m really good, the system should send you an email saying, “Thank you for your order, you can track it here (insert website).”
You don’t need to phone my office and say, “Did you send it?” And when U Smog says your file was incomplete because they didn’t receive the transcript, you can ask them to please check again because, “My university sent it on April 14th!”
What did that transparency do? It gave you control. You knew what was happening. You could trust that the process worked. You felt more responsible, less like a child that someone else was taking care of. You also were competent enough to stand up to the University of Smogaria about the transcript because you knew what was going on.
Trust. Responsibility. Competence. All because you could see. That’s technology at its best.
“I can see clearly now…”