What Makes GREAT Service GREAT?

We are all often exposed to organizations that provide great service experiences.  They come in all shapes and sizes from our favorite neighborhood eatery to large organizations like Ritz Carlton, Zappos and Starbucks that somehow consistently deliver great service experiences across many locations and/ or channels.

What is it that enables these organizations to consistently wow their customers?  We believe from our latest research, consulting and everyday experiences there are 5 characteristics shared by great service providers that make great service great:

  • Relentless pursuit of customer expectations & their perception of your experience – customer expectations are changing rapidly and keeping up with the expectations of today’s wired and dangerous customers is a vital factor to crafting the experience that drives loyalty.  There is only once perception of the experience that counts and that is the customer’s.  In today’s “over surveyed” world, it takes innovative customer intelligence processes to gather real time information on how your customer feels about what you are putting them through.
  • Clear vision of the destination – it is really difficult to get where you want to go without a clear road map.  Creating a clear picture of the desired experience you strive to continually deliver (we call it a service vision) serves to align the organization around what’s most important in creating customer loyalty.  Research shows how employees are treated and how they treat one another are significant determinants of what happens to the customer.  The service vision provides a description of what internal service must look like in order to get the level of external service desired.
  • Having great people – we hear from many clients today that their biggest challenge is finding really great people.  Having people who have a service attitude and aptitude first and then have the skills to fill the appropriate “seat on the bus” is critical to providing great service.  It is all about the culture of the organization that reinforces the values an organization holds dear and enables an engaged work force that commits to delivering great service.  A quick look at the latest Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for List shows the strong link between great cultures and great customer experiences with organizations like USAA, Wegmans Food Markets, The Container Store and Kimpton Hotels occupying spots in the top 1/3 of the 2015 list.
  • Alignment & Accountability – we have so much going on in today’s fast paced, 24 x 7 “wired” world that finding the true priorities of the organization is a crucial step in delivering great service.  Every aspect of an organization must be aligned around the goal of consistently providing great service to make it happen.  It is accountability – meaning providing consequences appropriate for performance (both good and the other kind) that is the cement that holds the efforts of great service providers together.
  • Operational focus – we have all read about turning the organization chart upside down to put the customer at the top of the chart.  It takes a full commitment to doing this and placing those who serve the customer up high on the chart just below the customer to make great service happen.  Leaders that bring an uncompromising operational focus that is all about keeping the customer in the middle of everything keep the experience focused on the customer and not the convenience of the organization.

It may sound easy but we all know it is not!  Maintaining a customer centric focus in the middle of the whirlwind that most companies find themselves in just to manage the day to day operations of the business is a huge challenge.  It takes strong leadership and a commitment by the entire organization to follow the organization wide service standards and behaviors that if consistently achieved produce the emotional connection, frictionless experience and reliability that today’s customers crave.

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© Chip Bell Group, 2015.  Courtesy of John R. Patterson (www.johnrpatterson.com).  Permission is given to download and distribute this article as long as it contains this copyright notice.

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