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Operations: Organize Your Service Experience

Furniture World Magazine


Why is there such a huge variation in the open service per million dollars in sales volume metric among furniture retailers? And what can be done about it?

Retail members of a performance group I moderate recently compared their open service per million dollars in sales metric. The high was 20 open service per million, the average was 7 and the low was 1.5. The retailer with 1.5 earned $20 million in annual sales and only had 30 open service tickets. This naturally led to the question: How can one business do so much better than others that carry similar products?

We all know that retailers who have fewer post-delivery issues and resolve those issues in a quick, professional manner, achieve a better level of customer experience. This article will present ways to provide the best level of after-sale service for issue resolution.

Reporting Analytics

Previous Furniture World articles in this series have stated, “If you wish to improve it, start by tracking it.” The same is true of service. Some of the best metrics to track are:

Open service per million dollars in sales volume:
Track this metric on a weekly basis and report on it during weekly operations meetings. Equals the number of service orders in process / annual sales dollars / $1 million.

Average time to resolution per service ticket:
Equals the total days to close tickets / number of tickets closed or total resolution time / number of resolved requests.

Causes of service: Track using the 80/20 rule. First, define the most common causes of service issues. Then use your definitions to code subsequent issues. This will allow you to pull reports ranking them from the most common occurrences to the least. Focus attention on the top 20 percent. Powered with this knowledge, your service manager will have the information needed to suggest process improvements to reduce the number of service calls. For example, if you see that a top issue is delivery damage, training and monitoring improvements can be put into place to reduce future occurrences.

Systems and Processes

It is important to make your service experience easy and efficient. What follows are a series of steps proven to help you improve your customer service resolution process:

The Integrated Digital Ticketing Form. Telephone tag, leaving messages for customers and passing issues from one person to another in your organization will lead to frustrating customer experiences and delays. Creating a digital ticketing form will help you to alleviate these problems. It will provide your service manager with all the necessary information required to assist customers. It will also enable automation of the entire process.

Place a link to this form on your website. It can be filled out by your customers or, if necessary, by an employee tasked with helping them to get the resolution process started. This link to the digital ticketing form can also be texted, emailed and printed with a QR code on sales materials. There isn’t an excuse for not using this time saving technology.

Many retailers believe that customers just want to speak with a sales or customer service person. That may be true; however, no matter how the conversation occurs, it is critical to get accurate data entered into a form. Not doing this will cause extra work and delay service.

Automation. The form should be connected to your CRM/CXM system so that the following steps automatically occur:

  • The customer account record is updated with all information including pictures.
  • A service ticket is opened.
  • The customer gets an email message or text telling them that their issue is being dealt with as a top priority.
  • The service team gets an email.
  • The type of service such as delivery, warranty, accident protection claim, product issue, is noted.

Internal Visualization & Service Ticketing Design

After a service ticket is initiated, the request for service should be auto assigned to the right segment of contacts within your database. All your open service tickets should be grouped together so that your service team can visualize customers with pending issues with ease.

Review open service ticket reports every day. The goal is to move them to closed tickets as soon as possible. Immediate resolution in some cases is possible when a customer accepts a concession. Less timely resolution involves ordering parts and scheduling repairs or replacements.

A link to the ticketing form can also be texted, emailed and printed with a QR code on your sales material.There isn’t an excuse for not using this time saving technology.

With the current scarcity of supply, many businesses have started to stock, save and request parts to expedite the process.

Your CRM/CXM should allow you to automatically update/contact customers as well as relevant employees when any action is taken. For instance, if the agreed upon action is to schedule a service call, that information should be noted on the customer’s account. This will trigger an email and/or text notifying them in advance.

Create Categories. When setting up your ticketing process, consider creating categories for different resolution paths. You will probably also want to set up alternative automated messages depending on the category. For example, a delivery damage service ticket will likely be handled differently than an accident protection claim. If a customer contacts you about damage due to a spill, choosing that service category might trigger an email, sent with all the necessary information to your protection partner requesting they contact your customer directly for resolution.

Metrics Reporting. Finally, when designing your ticketing systems and processes, consider reporting that will help you to track metrics you can use to improve service outcomes. Response reporting is an important metric to help you monitor the time it takes your team to resolve issues on average. You should also monitor the time it takes to respond and resolve different categories of issues.

Effective People

Top customer service managers are organized, technically savvy, quick, calm, resolution minded and decisive. However, these traits may or may not achieve the best customer experiences or the fastest service resolutions if a retailer fails to track results and implement smart systems and processes.

There is one additional necessary element that’s critically important—empowerment. Organizations must provide service managers with the ability to make quick and final decisions. Whatever the issue, it should be resolved in the service department without being escalated to higher level management. It’s been proven time and time again that businesses achieving the least amount of open service with the quickest resolution times are those that empower service department employees.


In summary, metrics allow you to track what you wish to improve. Your systems define outcomes. People have to manage both, and be empowered to do so.


About David McMahon 
David McMahon is founder of PerformNOW Inc.  PerformNOW has three main products that help home furnishings businesses improve and innovate: Performance Groups (Owners, Sales managers, Operations), PerformNOW CXM (Customer eXperience Management systems and processes), Furniture business consulting.  Your can reach David at david@performnow.com.

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