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“What can I say, except every experience is an adventure with those people. I go there because it’s close. I’m not loyal; I’m local. If another option pops up, I’ll probably make a switch.”
“Maybe I’m just boring, but I don’t like surprises. They’re great one day and disappointing the next. I don’t need to be delighted. I just need what I need when I need it.”
“They’re hit or miss. Sometimes the service is marvelous. Other times it’s simply meh. I’m afraid to recommend the place because I can’t trust them to deliver.”
Many businesses talk about giving exceptional service when they’ve yet to master the fundamentals of a reliable and repeatable customer experience. They look for opportunities to dazzle when they should first focus on the basics and work toward mastering consistently good.
For too many organizations, there is a misplaced priority on occasionally amazing instead of consistently good. Subsequently, reputations suffer, customers are less loyal, and employees less capable of delivering on what’s promised.
Is that to say that being exceptional shouldn’t be a goal? Of course not. However, it’s hard to run before you can walk, and most places occasionally stumble or have difficulty putting one foot in front of the other. Repeatable and reliable good service pays off more often than not for most organizations.
When an organization delivers a solid service experience with few surprises, people know what to expect, and a certain level of trust develops. On the other hand, when a provider delivers an A today, a C tomorrow, and a D next week, the lack of consistency undermines the trust-building process. In short, A, C, D almost always loses to B, B, B.
Take a hard look at what you’re delivering. Are you steady and consistent, or is there more variation in the service experience? If you’re not performing with regularity, take the time to set basic standards, train on those expectations, and review and refine what you’re doing on an ongoing basis.
Reliable service drives loyalty. When customers know what to expect and they’re in need of what you have to offer, they’re more likely to stick with you if you haven’t had them on a service roller coaster. If you’re great only some of the time and occasionally missing good, you’ve opened the door and invited competitors to give it their best shot to woo your customers away.
Pay attention to what keeps your customers coming back. Is it because you deliver a solid performance, or is it because nobody else has tried to lure them away? If it’s the latter, it’s time to focus on the fundamentals.
Many businesses look for opportunities to dazzle when they should first focus on the basics and work toward mastering consistently good.
Organizations that deliver exceptional one day and good the next may find that their good fails to live up to the expectations that exceptional creates. Businesses that deliver a consistently good experience are less likely to run the risk of growing customer expectations to the point where they can’t be met. Those who chase exceptional too often find that they can’t keep topping themselves.
Ask yourself if any previous efforts to delight have inadvertently encouraged your customers to expect more than you consistently deliver. If that’s occurred, it’s time to reset expectations. For example, if your normal service response time is 48 hours and you’ve gotten into the habit of jumping on command for certain customers, it may be time to return to a more manageable schedule.
Showing employees how to deliver exceptional is much harder than teaching them how to consistently deliver a solid performance. By zeroing in on the fundamentals, businesses can streamline processes, reduce complexity, and show their employees how to regularly and reliably deliver something good.
Take a look at your training and what’s happening on the job. Are you nailing the basics? If not, it’s probably time to focus on the core activities that move the needle for most customers.
Before investing in shazam, bling and wow, businesses should ask themselves if those efforts have an appropriate payoff. If customers don’t value extras, are they worth it? Probably not.
Pay attention to where you’re investing and what kind of payoff you’re getting for your efforts. If customers don’t value what you’re providing, it may be time to modify your offerings.
Whether a service experience meets standards is relatively easy to determine. In contrast, ascertaining delight is much harder and usually more subjective.
Focus on what you’re evaluating and how. Are the standards measurable? If not, it may be time to rethink what you monitor and how you communicate that to those people providing service.
Most businesses would see a greater return on their investment if they strived for a grade of consistently good instead of the occasional opportunity to delight and excite. The work is easier and the payoff better in the long run.
About the Author:
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more info, visit Businesstrainingworks.com.
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