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Service Excellence Principles

We have learned that there are few core principles for programmes designed to create service excellence. They have become the foundation for all our work.

There cannot be a standard 'off the shelf' approach for any service excellence project because different organisations have different people, different goals and start with different situations. However, we have learned that certain key things are constant in all the programmes in which we become involved. These are -

1. There is a hierarchy of elements that influence the success of any service excellence delivery programme

No matter what organisation we work with (or study), we always find that for the goal of service excellence to be achieved there are four key elements that will determine success. We've also learned that each element can only be fully effective when the previous one is in place, creating a hierarchy, which operates as follows.

Committed Leadership - It all starts (and ends) here. Without the leadership team being fully committed to the programme, with a complete understanding of what it will entail, how it will be conducted and what it can (and cannot) accomplish, the project is unlikely to be a success.

It's therefore vital that the full leadership team are prepared to commit their time, and resources to any project and to demonstrate their ongoing commitment and support through all its ups and downs, successes and failures.

Systems that Enable and Enhance Service Delivery - Too many systems and processes are designed to serve internal functions but not customers or the customer service people. This can seriously inhibit an organisation's ability to create service experiences that will enhance customer relationships and so build loyalty. It's therefore important to ensure that all systems and processes are designed to enhance service delivery.

Service Culture - If people are not experiencing exceptional service from their colleagues inside an organisation, they are incapable of delivering it to customers outside the organisation. The creation of an internal culture of service must therefore always precede any major efforts to improve external customer service.

This means that work must be done with people who may never come into direct contact with external customers so that they understand how they can and must support their colleagues who do.

Customer Connection - Once an internal service culture is in place attention can shift to the ways the organisation connects with its customers. The focus here needs to be on the fact that everyone can make a difference and that little things will have big impacts on customers.

This is where the following key topics become relevant -

  • Customer Experience Journey Mapping
  • Perfect Service delivery
  • Customer +1's and WOWs
  • Dazzling Recovery

Worthwhile Customer Feedback - It is essential to have a clear andf accurate picture of how customers view the products and/or services you deliver. This can only be established by gathering the appropriate feedback. This means not only doing the occasional Customer Satisfaction study, but also have on-going, event-driven feedback to give you a finger on the pulse of what customers are thinking and feeling.

Winning Implementation - An organisation's ability (or inability) to implement strategy will always determine the overall success of that strategy. It is therefore critical to carefully plan and prepare in advance how any programme will be implemented. Successful programme implementation generally requires a few key things to be in place, such as -

1. The early and then continual involvement of people throughout the organisation

2. Wave after wave of activity happening to promote and support the programme

3. Regular communication about the successes (and failures) being achieved

4. On going programmes to provide 'as needed' training for all employees

5. The creation of a recognition and rewards programme to promote and support the programme

2. It is essential to manage the Total Customer Experience

Most Customer Service programmes are too narrow and/or too shallow. To have a worthwhile, long-term impact a programme must involve every employee and have some relevance to everything they do. (It's no good simply training the front line people to be more attentive and polite to customers.) It's also essential to ensure that any changes and/or improvements that are made will stick and not simply revert back to how they were once the programme or phase is completed.

The best way we've found of achieving this is to focus the whole organisation on the Total Customer Experience and then make sure that everyone knows the part they play in creating it. Doing this involves the following stages.

  • Mapping the customer experience cycle for each type of customer in each part of the business
  • Gathering feedback from customers at each point in the cycle to ascertain their expectations, their perceptions of the existing service and its relative importance to them.
  • Analysing the feedback to establish where there are service gaps or failings and how improvement can be made.
  • Organising teams to fix the problems and create sustainable improvements.
  • Putting in control systems to ensure the problems don't reoccur so that all fixes or improvements are permanent.
  • Going back to the customers to ensure that they have noticed and are happy with what's been done and to learn whether anything more is needed.

Many of the techniques and tools used during these activities can be derived or developed from the Six Sigma or Kaizen quality initiatives, which are used to control manufacturing and service quality by many successful organisations throughout the world.

3. The more work that is done by your own people, the quicker the learning is transferred and the more lasting the changes will be.

Experience has shown that if external consultants are used for inspiration, coaching, guidance and mentoring, with an organisation's own people doing most of the project design, development, measurement, analysis and implementation work, then knowledge and skills are transferred and developed quickly and permanently. However, if external consultants are used as programme drivers and experts with, an organisation's own staff treated as trainees, then the programme may be shorter, and perhaps less disruptive in the short-term, but it is unlikely to make a worthwhile, lasting impact.

We therefore always recommend that any programme becomes project and team based as soon as possible so as to engage and involve many people throughout the organisation.

4. The material used should be based on the best available from around the World.

No person or organisation knows it all. We certainly don't. However, we do recommend that any organisation or person you choose to work with should know where the best material or techniques can be found, what it has to offer and be happy to introduce you to it. For example, our own experience suggests that the World's best material for the following key business topics are -

  • Competitive Strategy - Michael Porter and Gary Hamel

  • Leadership - Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard, John Kotter and John Adair

  • Team working - Ken Blanchard, Meredith Belbin and Patrick Lencioni

  • Creativity and Innovation - Edward DeBono and the What!-If? techniques

  • Quality/Service Implementation - The Six Sigma, Kaizen and Systems Thinking (Lean) techniques

  • Personal Effectiveness - Stephen Covey, Daniel Pink

  • Organisational Change - John Kotter, Stewart Black & Hal Gregersen, Chip and Dan Heath