When I was doing some work for Business Link in Kent, one of our evenings was spent at a hotel that reminded me so much of Ron Zemky's work.
Ron is the author of the "Tales of Knock Your Socks Off Service" books. Ron describes customer service as being made up of two dimensions - outcome and process.
What Ron is saying is that there can be a range of product outcomes. From expectation not met, through met and up to value added. There are also a range of processes ranging from dissatisfied, through satisfied and up to delighted. Both aspects should be covered in any customer service training program.
Ron charts customer reactions to various combinations of outcome and process. At the very lowest level, the customer is going to be gone. A slight improvement in either dimension can still leave a customer searching for a new supplier. Moving up a level still leaves customers at risk from competitors. Another level creates loyal customers. Ron's ultimate combination of Product and Process creates advocates.
Ron's work came sharply to mind at this particular hotel. It was a nice hotel. Good facilities, easy to find, comfortable rooms. And when we visited the restaurant that evening the food was excellent. In fact it was one of the best meals that I've had in a long time.
But it was all let down on process.
We waited almost three hours for our meal. There was no apology from the waiter or waitress. In fact they were both quite surly. And when our meal finally arrived, one of the orders was wrong. One of our party ended up waiting another 15 minutes for the right meal and then had the embarrassment of eating whilst the rest of us had finished.
What can we learn from this?
Product alone is not enough. We have to get the process right too. Good processes mean having good systems (systems that everyone can follow), good leadership (to enforce those systems) and good communication (so that our customers and our Team know what is going on).
Apply these principles to your business. Have you got the processes right?
And remember, many people will willingly pay more for an improved service.
Derek Williams is creator of The WOW! Awards and Chief Executive for the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Europe.
Keep customers on your side by avoiding
the Customer Service Sins.