Here’s How A Brilliant Customer Service Plan Can Help You Crush A 100K Ultramarathon!

Updated: Feb 8


Patrick Sandefur running in 62 mile Pine Creek Challenge ultramarathon
7 AM Start!

It’s mile 58. I have been running all day. The last aid station is within sight where my wife is waiting. My only race crew member, she will keep me motivated and keep me running. Just 4 more miles to the finish line of the 2018 Pine Creek Challenge 100K ultramarathon. I am beyond exhausted, but I’m still running, and I’m hopeful. I stop just long enough to give her a hug. No time to rest. Just keep running. Trust in your training. Run your own race. Follow your race day plan. Be confident! My goals are bold, but realistic. My plan is bullet-proof. My execution has been nearly flawless. I was on my way to a top 10 finish. Good place to be when most of my competitors are considerably younger than me! The race isn’t over. A lot can happen in 4 miles.


Set Bold, But Realistic Goals


Like running an ultramarathon, running a customer service business starts with setting bold, but realistic goals. What is your company’s focus or core mission? How are you positioned compared to your competition? What do you want your customers to say about your customer service? Is your company culture customer-centric? Is your customer service a profit center or a cost center?


If you sell equipment, then parts and value-added services such as field repair, maintenance, installation, machine upgrades, technical support and training should be the basis for a very profitable service business. Determining how to position customer service in your company and in your marketplace is critical to establishing the right goals and objectives. As a service leader you should be involved in the process of setting the overarching company goals and objectives. After all, excellent customer service is a differentiator and a competitive advantage for your company.


My Bold but Realistic Goals for the Pine Creek Challenge 100K


1) Finish in under 12 hours.

2) Finish in the top 10 overall.

3) Win my age group.


Create a Bullet-Proof Plan


Creating a bullet-proof plan is easier said than done. There are many variables that can change the direction of your customer service plan, starting with a pandemic! Adaptability to changing conditions is key. Listening to what your customers are telling you, and acting on that information, is the most important thing you can do as a service leader. Build your plan around your core strengths. Identify your weaknesses. A SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) analysis can be a good tool for doing this.


You don’t have to be the best at everything to out-perform your competition, just better at the things that matter most to your customers. Resource planning is critical to a successful business plan. Knowing what your customers want, where new customers will be located and what they will buy is important information for planning. This and knowing how many trained, local service resources are needed to provide excellent customer service is key to a successful plan. Your plan should include a mission statement, goals, objectives, milestones, and tactical actions with completion dates and assigned personnel. It is critical to include dependencies with buy-in from teams outside of your organization.


Aspah Aid Station Info
Aspah Aid Station Info

My Bullet-Proof Plan for the Pine Creek Challenge 100K


1) Do the work! Come to the race prepared to deliver.

2) Do the analytics. Review Pine Creek race results for the previous 5 years. On average, what overall time do I need to finish in the top 10, top 5, to win?

3) Race smart. Stick to my race strategy unless circumstances force me to reconsider.

4) Keep a positive attitude no matter how I am feeling.


Training is Key


Ensuring that your customer service team receives ongoing training is key to running a successful service business. This includes, but is not limited to, customer soft-skills training, customer first training, diversity in the workplace training, new and existing products training, repair and maintenance training, technical diagnostics training, service tools training, process and systems training, train the trainer, and customer applications training.


Training for your customer service team should be predetermined, scheduled for each team member, recorded, and tracked. For field service technicians, a training and certification program should be in place. Certification should include an expiration date. Training for individual advancement or to learn new skills goes a long way toward improving employee retention.


My Training for the Pine Creek Challenge 100K


1) Follow a 100K training plan written by world-class, ultramarathon champion Hal Koerner.

2) Complete every workout on the training schedule.

3) Train in the same environmental conditions and on the same type of terrain as the racecourse.

4) Practice fueling, hydration and electrolyte strategy.

5) Practice pacing and mindful running, especially on the weekend long runs.

6) Visualize competing in the race and what success will look like.


Execution is Paramount


Writing a customer service business plan is one thing, executing on that plan is another! Many well-intentioned business plans end up as reference documents. The quote attributed to Napoleon Hill almost 100 years ago, “plan your work and work your plan”, is as true today as it was then. “Work your plan” includes updating your plan to adapt to changing conditions. Effective execution of your plan is not only critical for your customer service team achieving their goals and objectives, but also for achieving your company’s goals and objectives. Assigned responsibilities, as defined by the business plan, should be reviewed with, and included in, an assigned individual’s annual performance goals and objectives.


Execution of My Race Day Plan at the Pine Creek 100K Challenge was Nearly Flawless.

Fueling & Electrolyte Options at Aid Stations
Fueling & Electrolyte Options at Aid Stations

I closely followed my pacing, fueling, hydrating, electrolyte and resting strategy.

I adjusted my pacing strategy in the second half of the race because some of my bio and refueling breaks took longer than expected!


Use KPIs to Measure Performance


Establishing metrics that matter, specifically Key Performance Indictors (KPIs), is an important step to ensuring that you achieve your goals and objectives. KPIs should measure activities that have the most significant impact on your business from a customer satisfaction, revenue, and profitability standpoint. For a field service organization, a few examples of KPIs are:


1) First Time Fix

2) Remote Fix

3) Installation Efficiency

4) Field Service Technician Utilization.


High first time and remote fix percentages not only make the customer happier because their equipment is up and running more quickly, but it is also good for your bottom line. Lower cost of repair and the opportunity to assign your field service resources to other jobs more quickly drives revenue and customer satisfaction.


This principle also applies to installation efficiency. No customer wants their new equipment to sit idle longer than necessary because it has a negative impact on the return-on-investment calculation. The longer an installation takes the higher your cost, which negatively impacts your bottom line.


Field service technician utilization measures productive time spent on customers. Optimization of this KPI depends upon the goals and objectives, service level agreements (SLAs), contract entitlements, and other customer considerations a service organization has established with their customers.


My KPIs for the Pine Creek Challenge 100K

Patrick Sandefur running 62 mile Pine Creek Challenge ultramarathon
Well Into My 100K Adventure!

1) Real time pace; pace per mile; average overall pace.

2) Fluid, calorie, carbohydrate and electrolyte intake per hour.

3) Overall time on course and time spent at aid stations.

These were my most important KPIs. All of them were crucial to achieving my goals!


Keep Your Eye on the Prize!


Bold, but realistic goals, a “bullet-proof” plan, ample training, good execution, KPIs to measure performance (adjusting when necessary), and most importantly, keeping your eye on the prize will provide the foundation to have a successful customer service business in 2021!


Pine Creek Challenge 100K Results


GOAL 1) Finish in under 12 hours. RESULT: Finished in 11 hours, 19 minutes

GOAL 2) Finish in the top 10. RESULT: Finished 4th overall (32 competitors)

GOAL 3) Win my age group; RESULT: Won my age group with a 4 hour and 33 minute margin


So, what is your brilliant customer service plan that will crush your customer service experience goals in 2021?

 

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Patrick Sandefur is the Founder and Managing Director of Bass Harbor Group / Customer Experience Solutions. His 30+ year career in Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, Product Management and Business Development has given him a unique perspective of what customers want and expect when interacting with a brand.


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