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Fundamental Service Quality Improvement Approaches


How do you achieve service quality excellence?

There are no "silver bullets" when it comes to service quality improvement. It is hard work with a lot of attention to detail, and it requires passion, consistency in intent and quality at all levels of the organization. Some of the key ingredients of success are:

  • Capturing the voice of the customer and measuring where the (emerging) expectations are not being met, or improvements could be made. A variety of listening methods need to be used in the right combination, including customer satisfaction measurement. This is customer risk management and needs to focus on problems, weaknesses and customer losses, to lead the way to positive, profitable action. A key ingredient for me is always to include a detailed analysis of the customer experience by means of my pragmatic and proven Customer Experience Workshop - A Quick-Results Method For Improving Day-to-Day Customer Service  (external or internal). It defines all moments of truth and how service is delivered, what are improvement opportunities and what are barriers to improvements.

  • Paying attention to bad processes that stop good people. Bringing the voice of the customer into the horizontal key business processes and identifying the process deliverables in customer terms. "Animate" the processes so that throughout the process and all business functions concerned everybody effectively understands their role and interdependencies. I often use a Process Animation Workshop  to make traditional process redesign approaches more effective.

  • And finally, people need to be led from the heart and with passion, by senior managers. Only turned on, well-treated and motivated people give great service. The people-profit-service chain is a strong and proven concept. Enduring and real customer service success requires a passion for people - both employees and customers. Author Jim Clemmer observes that "Too many managers treat 'their people' as assets with skin wrapped around them."

What is the major challenge?

The fundamental problem is that most business leaders are not "pathological" about customer service and do not believe passionately in it as a key differentiator. One of my clients   (a president, who used the word "pathological" in his communications and speeches about customer service),  was successful in making excellence happen and royally reaped the commercial benefits. He did not just make the rational strategy case for it, but he lived it from his heart. Unfortunately there are too few leaders like that.

But, if the customer is king, why are so many companies still behaving like republicans instead of royalists?   There is often misalignment between the people and the systems in place to manage them. The challenge for today's business leaders is to put their people front and center; to pursue short-term results while continuously aligning technology, work processes, and structure around the people to enable them to become customer-focused in all aspects of operation. After all, a sharper customer focus means a sharper competitive edge.

What are my key lessons learned?

There are two lessons in this.

  • More organizations need to think more and harder about the people factor.

  • They must also pay fanatical attention to managing each customer touch-point ('moment of truth').

This is serious and hard work.

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