Thought Leadership + Practical Advice

Good Service Is A Waste Of Time


It’s the epitome that defines service – the stock photo of the model with the perfect teeth that, of course, works in your call centre. You can guess that this isn’t one of those ’10 things you must’ articles…

For decades, people in business have been talking about delivering good service and infer that it is the key to business growth and lasting relationships. The assumption that we should ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ has become a mantra seen on planning walls to toilet stalls throughout our environments.

Pretty simple it seems. So, if this ‘good service’ is truly the key, then why isn’t every business doing it? Can it really be that hard to deliver ‘good service’?

In our work across private and public sectors, our experience shows that there are few key points to consider – possibly giving some insight to the questions above.

Good Is A Relative Measure (And Not So Simple!)

People describe service levels with subjective labels – good, bad, indifferent, great, excellent – and it is within these labels that we find the first consideration. These subjective measures (even in a survey scale) are the perception of the individual relative to other experiences and expectations that they have had. If my expectation, set by the company or its competitors (or in fact a completely different experience), is not met then the gap between delivery and expectation causes a short-fall (read: perception of poor service).

Great, so how can you understand the elements critical to your delivery? You start with the customer in mind, and view your business by walking in their shoes.

Walk In Their Shoes – Understand Your Customer Journey

Where many companies go awry with service delivery is that they try to include everything. Some schools of thought are to increase the frequency of client messages, or to add a plethora of steps to their processes so that all the bells and whistles are in place. Not only ineffective, these approaches are a costly inefficient use of your resources. At the other end, some businesses are built around their IT platform or capability – often without any human heart or soul. The issue here is that these businesses are built from the inside-out. The customer is on the outside – a one-way relationship without a feedback loop.

In contrast, think of interacting with your business from your customer’s perspective. What steps do they go through on the journey? What are they thinking? What do they need? How do they feel? – at each step. This ‘outside-in’ approach can often provide some very quick wins in both service effectiveness and efficiency.

More importantly, it starts to build customer empathy – a core component of bridging the delivery-expectation equation as you begin to work out what is really important to that overall ‘good service’ badge.

‘Heart Moments’ & The Pool Of Forgiveness

Now that we have established the concept that customers go on a journey, it is also true that each journey is not linear. There are key moments – we call them ‘heart moments’ – that critically impact the customer experience. If you get these right, they can build long term loyalty, engagement and advocacy – get them wrong…

By reframing your service context to one of relationships, it is possible to build a ‘pool of forgiveness’ over time with your clients. The heart moments fill this pool and make any small short-comings in service delivery tolerable (even sometimes with return empathy back from the client!). In a recent interview with a long-serving relationship manager of one of the worlds leading business machines companies, he stated that he loved it when something went wrong in the delivery. It gave him an opportunity to show the company’s sharp attention and swift response – in most cases cementing long-tenure and profitable clients. The heart moments are what is important – not bombarding with the messages that you might think clients want to hear.

Good Service Is Not Enough: It Needs To Be


Leaving the delivery-expectation gap to passive occurrence makes it as a lagging indicator for your business. Yay – we’re great; Bugger – we’re not. Possibly not the most helpful input to running your business.

You need to intentionally design, build and measure your service experience and the perceptions held by your customer groups. In designing and building your service delivery model, be sure to proactively ask and listen to your customers. They will often be explicit with those ‘heart moments’ making the whole exercise much easier to achieve beyond good service to intentional service. Successful businesses assign a person (or team) to be the custodian of such improvement or design, with demonstrated support from senior management.

Measure It To Improve It

Finally, an intentional service model must be measurable. Leading indicators from your service model can help drive the business, providing early sight of both great and not-so-great business performance. By placing the customer at the heart and using their journey as the navigator, you can be sure tap into the right measures relevant to your business.

Good service? Intentional service is the key.

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