I’ve had the pleasure of working with a local organisation that had a grand impression of itself. Well, that impression set the tone for the style with which it conducted its business, how its employees were engaged, how its events were executed and how its customers were treated.
Ultimately, this organisation created such a brand name for itself, that it became a dominant force in its market, with a service experience that was extraordinary and unrivalled at the time. I would say that its service personality was “grand,” just like the organisation’s impression of itself. Everyone wanted to be associated with this business and surprise, its competitors thought that it was way too overrated and way too impressed with its own personality.
This now begs the question; “as a business, do you know how your customers would describe your service personality?” As an assist, I’ve created five categories, in ascending order, into which your business can fall. “Horrible, Hit and Miss, Engaged, Highly Engaged (Grand) and Legendary. Horrible and Hit and Miss flounder at the bottom of the list, whilst the stars are Engaged, Highly Engaged (Grand) and Legendary.”
Let me state here, that whilst there are more formalised categories for segregating businesses on their service levels, I’ve created these categories simply to communicate, in an informal way, how I believe customers view businesses. So, let’s talk about these categories in a little more depth.
Do you recognise this scenario? Employees do not return telephone calls, make recurring errors during transactions, do not keep promises to customers, misplace documents and ask customers to repeat themselves during transfers between departments. Products and services are delivered in a way that makes it hard to conduct business and almost every touchpoint (point of contact), along the customer’s journey is unpleasant. To customers, this level of business is totally unacceptable.
The experience here is similar to, but slightly better than that of the horrible category. On some days the service actually improves. The challenge is that customers cannot predict which days will be hit days and which will be miss days.
This is the level where customers say that the service is “not bad” but stop short of saying that it’s “good.” There is a 50 per cent chance of getting acceptable service and a 50 per cent chance of being disappointed and irritated as a customer who expects to receive a basic level of service, but doesn’t. Businesses in this category do try to deliver acceptable service and do succeed many times. Unfortunately, they fail many times as well, but the memory of the successful deliveries, (coupled with a forgiving customer base), is sufficient to retain customer business. Because the service is unpredictable and customers are left barely satisfied, at first sign of a competitor with superior service delivery, many customers will defect. This level falls short of acceptable in our estimation.
Customers patronise businesses in this category because they feel that attention is being paid to their needs and to making their service experience effortless and hassle free. Customers feel “valued.” Whilst some ball dropping and service failures do occur at this level, they are nowhere near the typical ball dropping experienced at the lower levels. Employees are eager, friendly, courteous and helpful. On the operational end, these businesses have invested deeply and intentionally (not by force or crisis), in technology to support an experience journey that is standardised, effortless and ahead of customer expectations. Customers experience predictably positive outcomes when conducting business, with their expectations being met across 75 per cent of these interactions, “consistently.” In this category, interactions have moved from being transactional, to being relational.
This is where the air starts to get really rare. At this Highly Engaged level, science, (as in data and customer analytics), meets marketing to differentiate the customer experience and exceed expectations consistently, for each customer segment. Now that’s moving the needle from an enjoyable experience to one that is thrilling. At this level, customers are more than willing to pay a premium price for an experience journey that is grand, from end to end and beyond. At hotels that fall into this category, details regarding the guest’s desired mattress firmness and the sheet thread count are built into a guest management system, just so that when the guest visits again, his or her preferences will be “in place” already. After all, if a customer is paying a premium price, these details should be a part of the suite of upscale benefits. At this level, digitalisation enables an effortless experience, bureaucracy is flattened and repeat business is assured. Customers experience predictably positive outcomes when conducting business, with their expectations being met across 95 per cent of these interactions, “consistently.”
What can I say? These businesses know what their customers would appreciate even before the customers themselves know. Typically, customer centric businesses go where customers lead them, but in some rare cases, the opposite occurs. Apple knew that the world needed the iPod and the iPad before its customers had the thought and when these revolutionary devices were introduced, the world shifted on its technological axis.
These are unicorn businesses, where nothing is too much trouble for their customers. There is a story about a hotel that chartered a transatlantic flight, overnight, to bring in a special breakfast item for one of its guests, simply because the guest indicated a desire for it. Whilst this demonstrates an extraordinary effort for the guest experience, the point is that the business delivered a legendary and memorable experience that was “out of this world.”
So, is your business thinking about improving its service? With your permission, I’ll ask the question that can jumpstart your journey.
Where does your service personality lie?