I recently reviewed the research work by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry on the Conceptual Model of Service Quality. Their work suggests that regardless of the product or service in question, customers use relatively the same criteria to evaluate the exchange. Although their research was published in the Journal of Marketing in fall of 1985–it may as well have been written in 2010, internet, cell phones and all!
Of course for an organization to take good care of the customers, the employees and workers need to know what that feels like themselves. In other words, for the most part we can step beyond your customers and think about our employees, partners, co-workers etc.
Whether you’re rating on a five star scale, by thumbs up or thumbs down, 1-10, or whatever, the criteria is summarized in the following points:
- Reliability: Are you delivering what you said you would? Are you doing it over and over? Consistently, accurately?
- Responsiveness: Are you delivering on time? Are you demonstrating a willingness and readiness to provide the service? What’s the spirit of service you are conveying?
- Competence: Do you have and can you demonstrate that you have the skills and knowledge to perform the service?
- Communication: How well do you listen to your customers? How well do you keep them informed?
- Credibility: Are you believable? Do you demonstrate it in your conversation? Appearance? Marketing?
- Courtesy: Friendliness of personal. Is the golden rule of treating others the way you want to be treated
- Access: Are you approachable and easy to contact regarding questions? (In today’s world of emailed customer service queries this can be the most frustrating).
- Customer Knowledge: Do you speak the customer’s language? Do you really know their needs and objectives?
- Security: Do your customers feel safe? Can they trust you with their financial information, account confidentiality etc?
- Tangibles: What physical impressions do you leave with your customers? Appearance and condition/quality of facilities? Reports and inspections etc…
What strikes me about this list is two fold: First, the businesses I know that do this well, do business well.–It’s the open secret of customer service. And Second, well, very few businesses do this well
John Osher in inarguably one of the most successful entrepreneurs of age. What makes him so successful is his ability to replicate his success. In today’s world where we like things packaged and clearly organized, he has set forth a list of 17 top mistakes, which if avoided would certainly create the “perfect company.”
For those who would like to find a full copy, I recommend this website, for those of you who just want to know what the mistakes are and think you can figure out how to avoid them on your own, I’ve posted a condensed list below:
Mistake 1: Failing to spend enough time researching the business idea to see if it’s viable.
Mistake 2: Miscalculating market size, timing, ease of entry and potential market share.
Mistake 3: Underestimating financial requirements and timing.
Mistake 4: Overprojecting sales volume and timing. Mistake 5: Making cost projections that are too low.
Mistake 6: Hiring too many people and spending too much on offices and facilities.
Mistake 7: Lacking a contingency plan for a shortfall in expectations.
Mistake 8: Bringing in unnecessary partners.
Mistake 9: Hiring for convenience rather than skill requirements.
Mistake 10: Neglecting to manage the entire company as a whole.
Mistake 11: Accepting that it’s “not possible” too easily rather than finding a way.
Mistake 12: Focusing too much on sales volume and company size rather than profit.
Mistake 13: Seeking confirmation of your actions rather than seeking the truth.
Mistake 14: Lacking simplicity in your vision.
Mistake 15: Lacking clarity of your long-term aim and business purpose.
Mistake 16: Lacking focus and identity.
Mistake 17: Lacking an exit strategy.
I had a great opportunity today to attend a “business ignitor” event hosted by Grow Utah Ventures. I have been so busy working in the trenches lately that I began to feel out of touch with the rich entrepreneur community here in Utah. The topic was “How to Approach an Angel Investor.” The perfect topic for the situation in which I currently find myself. It was so refreshing to hear from experienced panelists regarding what they looked for in applicants and to hear questions from other attendees reflect my current questions.
The panelists, Alan Hall, Brad Walters and Brad Angus were all successful entrepreneurs and investors in the Weber Davis Morgan region of Utah. I have had the paradigm that Northern Utah Entreprenuership was fertile grounds, but I was grateful and impressed by what I saw today. Although my current business exploit is a social venture and not directly applicable to much of the material covered in the conference, I did gain a lot of useful knowledge and also made some good contacts.
To anyone in Utah County, Salt Lake or Northern Utah who might be considering attending a Grow Utah Ventures event, I would highly recommend it. Thanks guys!
Customer service is really all about expectation management.
I remember a time I was waiting for a return flight from Atlanta Georgia, when the customer service representative announced that the flight to Salt Lake City had been delayed four hours and alternate arrangements might be necessary for many customers. The dismay of the disgruntle passengers could be heard throughout the gate terminal… About 30 minutes later, the customer representative made another announcement that proclaimed they had worked to expedite the problem and the delay would only be an hour longer. The crowd erupted in cheers. I smiled to myself as I thought how many people still missed their connecting flights but by suddenly exceeding expectations the angry mobs were appeased…
Let them know what to expect: risks, worst case scenario, and more. I’m not saying dwell on it, but mention it as a potential part of the package and if things do go wrong everyone will be more prepared to handle it. When things go smoothly, (which they most often do) your customers are even happier with the goods or services.
Online retail, brick and mortal service retail or door to door sales, the key to long term customer satisfaction remains: let them know what to expect. Manage that and customer service improves, employees are happier and management is happier.