So you want to excel in service? Perhaps, you even want to build or manage an organisation that’s known for its excellence in service – an organisation in the mould of Marriott Hotels, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, Mayo Clinic and the rest.
Well, I have some word for you. Over the next few weeks, we will look at some principles – I call them laws – you need to remember and apply to your advantage. You may, however, wish to ignore or break the laws – at your own peril (needless to say).
Let me state that what I intend to share with you is largely drawn from my book, 20 Universal Laws of Service Excellence. I believe there are more than 20 principles that should guide our quest for excellence in service; but I also know that any organisation that has fully internalised these 20 is already on its way! I don’t know of any organisation that won’t find the laws relevant.
The customer is the Boss
In customer-focused companies, the products
(services) and processes are tailored to suit the needs of the customer. Whatever the organisation does is geared to pleasing her. This, no doubt, is the first law in business. Business exists only when there is a customer for the organisation’s products and services. So the customer is the ultimate boss.
Your frontline is the company
In service, as in many other things in life, the part represents the whole. Whoever the customer meets does not only represent the company, but is the company. To the customer, if you’ve seen one, you’ve (probably) seen them all. The pitfall, however, is that an otherwise excellent service organisation may have its reputation sullied by the indiscretion of just one employee.
Service is driven by organisational culture
In organisations built on service excellence, there is a deliberate effort to create a culture that is conducive to service. For instance, it is going to be very difficult to deliver exceptional service if the organisational culture dis-empowers employees such that for every single decision they must seek approval from superior officers. It is also going to be difficult to serve customers well if people see marketing and customer service as departments rather than roles for every employee of the organisation.
External service mirrors internal service
Until employees have a taste of good service within the organisation, it is a tall order to expect them to deliver it to customers. If you care for them, they most likely will care for your customers. If your organisation is a great place to work, employees are more likely to make your customers feel great too. Truth is that you cannot get excellent service from a bunch of poorly paid, overworked, maltreated, untrained and unmotivated employees. There is usually a correlation between the way employees feel about their place of work and the kind of service they render to customers.
Customer experience matters more than company communication
Prospects may sometimes rely on corporate communications and physical evidence to form impressions about the organisation, but actual customers rely more on their previous experience. To customers, experience with the company counts much more than the carefully (some say, seductively) crafted communications from the company. Their perception of service quality and the value delivered by the company carry more weight than anything the company has to say.