IBM LogoOne of the advantages of a large company is its massive resources and the ability to have staff specializing in different roles. But sometimes, that advantage creates a disadvantage: how to keep everyone who needs to know informed.

In an earlier blog post titled: Warning, Is your Sales Force blindsided by Customer Service I talked about the need for customer service to keep sales informed about potential customer escalations and that might negatively impact the sales team.

Here is a real life example of a system that was in place when I retired from IBM Canada.

Customer service created a system that allowed the sales team to sign up to receive notifications called ‘Alerts’ sent out by the support team when they suspected that the customer might be trending towards dissatisfied with the service they were receiving.

What Data does the Sales Force Receive?

Alerts are generated by a support representative and contained information about the customer contact, the product or products involved, the nature of the problem, the location in the country where the problem was being experienced (as some customers had multiple locations). The service person included their own name and contact information in case the sales team wanted to talk to them personally.

Other information in the notification email was the impact this problem was having or might have on the customer.

Next , the trend of the customer sentiment was evaluated by the support representative. Is the customer stable, getting more agitated, or improving?

The current status of the problem being worked on and the next action steps were also included in the document along with any relevant problem record and critical situation record numbers.

The email also included when this ‘Alert’ was first opened, the date of the current update and how many days it was opened (nice did not require the reader to calculate the number of days since the problem was raised to this level of notification).

Who is Notified?

The sales team, including the technical sales specialists and their management could sign up for what kinds of problems they wanted to be notified about. So the account executive might want to know all of the problems, but the sales specialist and technical sales representative who only focused on a small number of products, might only want to hear about problems in their product group. The system allowed for granular choice by product.

The account executive might find the system onerous if they received every notification of the support organization, so different levels of severity were created. The account executive and senior management could sign up to receive only the higher levels of severity while the regular sales specialist might receive the lower level alerts for their product area.

Three levels of alerts were created: Executive, Country and Branch. The Branch level was the lowest level of severity and the Executive level was the highest.

When does Notification take place?

An initial notification was sent out when the service personnel assessed that the customer might be trending toward dissatisfied with the service being provided.

Subsequent alerts were sent out when new information was available, progress (or lack of progress) was made or a change in customer temperament was noticed.

Problems might start at the Branch level and if they are not resolved quickly, would move up a severity level, eventually becoming an Executive Alert.

As problem resolution improved, the alert level could be lowered.

When the customer problem was resolved, a close out Alert was sent out to inform everyone that the situation was resolved.

 Value of the Alert System

The alert system was put in place to promote customer satisfaction. The sales team were kept aware of customer problems and could discuss the problems intelligently at all levels of the customer, from executive to the IT organization.

IBM support management were also informed of possible customer issues before they blew up and could ensure that the support team received all the help it needed (additional skills, parts, transportation, and funding) to resolve customer problems.

IBM’s Alert system was one of many key processes  put in place to ensure customer satisfaction. It prevented escalations and the sales team looked professional and well informed to their customers.


Do you have a similar process in your organization? Share it with us in the comments section below.


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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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