November 6, 2014

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Building Up Your Service

It’s easy to see how advancements in technology are constantly changing our lives. Companies that manufacture products understand that they must always be introducing something new, faster, easier, or better to keep their customers engaged. If they don’t, they will be left behind as their customers upgrade to the next new product.

Very few companies, however, understand that service is exactly the same — it is always changing, and their job is to stay ahead of the competition and ahead of the curve. Here’s what I mean. To start, let’s figure out the level of your current service. It would basically fit into one of these six categories.

  • Criminal i.e. really bad. It is service that violates even the most minimum of expectations; the kind that your customers remember to never use again and are angry enough to call you and complain about it.

  • Basic - i.e. disappointing. It moves the customer from a point of frustration to anger, but when it’s all over, the customer is not disappointed enough to complain. However, he will inform friends, and will not ever call you for that service again.

  • Expected i.e.  nothing special. It is average, the usual, the norm. The customer might come back to you, but only if he finds no better option.

  • Desired i.e. what your customers hope for and prefer. They’ll do business with your organization again because you do things for them just the way they like it.

  • Surprising - i.e. something special, like an unexpected gift. It gives your customers more than they expected. This makes you one of their favorites and they will come back to you repeatedly.

  • Unbelievable i.e. astonishingly fantastic! This is the level of service your customers can’t forget, the legendary treatment they will tell all their friends about.

Can you see where your service stands today? Great! Now consider this: Each level of service is just like a step on a stairway. Companies that truly understand the power of great service are continuously looking for ways to climb to the next level.

But here’s the rub: Moving up is not just another step on a solid stairway; it’s more like riding an escalator. Each level is sliding downward because your competitors are also working to raise their level of service. One day you offer surprising service, but the next day everyone in your industry is doing the same thing and oops - you just slipped down to “desired”! Wait another day, and oops - you just fell to “expected”! The next thing you know, you’re the cassette player of service trying to compete with the iPod. Keep stepping up or you’ll find yourself far behind!

So, how do you step up your service? In three ways:

  1. Keep service improvement as a key focus of your business.
  2. Don’t just hit the service target; aim for one or two steps higher.
  3. Ask your customers what else they would like, appreciate, or value. What are you not yet doing that they would love you for if you did?

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