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Service Excellence is Always Achievable Published: Sunday, October 10, 2010 8:00 am By: Rafael Ríos, Executive Vice President

A couple of weeks ago, I had unforgettable experience with my internet service provider. The Saturday after hurricane Earl swept past our island I was left without internet service in my home. When I called the company I was greeted with a pre-recorded auditable deficient voice response system that uncomfortably guided me to the section that would deal with my technological problem. After going through at least four menus I breathed a sigh of relief, I had finished the obstacle course, I had made it through the maze. Yet, once I got there I found out all the operators were busy and that I should wait for a few moments and someone would be with me shortly. After ten minutes waiting the system hung up on me. So I started again, then I started again and finally again. After an hour and forty-five minutes a very friendly, helpful brave and patient technician guided me thru the process to get my internet back. I want to emphasize brave technician. I imagine he receives a lot of feedback from something he has little control over.

This is not the first time a situation similar to this has happened to me; I’ve had similar experiences with other organizations (banks, insurance companies, utilities, computer companies, retail stores etc.).  How can this be, after 10 years into the 21st century, technologies such as telephony, voice prompt, etc detract us from providing an unforgettable service experience?

In our article last month, we talked about the progress that has been made in the processes leading up to achieving service excellence, from focusing on the customer product or service transaction with its emphasis on exactness and quickness of the transaction, to providing service and support to the transactions, to finally providing an exceptional experience. We presented the proposition that service providers had two areas they had to focus on to ensure service excellence.  The first was technology. We discussed the importance of technology in the presentation of the organizations’ value proposition or its promise to the client.  Secondly we stated that companies had to consider the emotional component in the customer experience. An organization can create the conditions that induce positive emotions, trust and feelings that influence our customers overall assessment of the service experience. If we were to make a mathematical equation for providing an unforgettable service experience to our customers it would read something like this: Customer Unforgettable Experience = Technology X Emotional Experience.

On that Saturday because I needed the help of the service provider I stayed on line. And even though the technician did his job beautifully, technology or the lack of created a situation that today still creates high blood pressure. 

So I have to wonder, do the leaders of these organizations know of these costly service breakdowns in their company? Do they not measure the effectiveness of key technologies in providing service excellence? Do they not receive actionable information that can have a positive or detrimental impact on the future relationship of their client base?

Maybe the leaders know of the problem but are not bothered by them.  This can be counterproductive in the historic moment.

A study recently released by American Express reveals that in this economic environment more than the half of people believes that receiving exceptional service from a company is very important to them.  If customers perceive that they are receiving exceptional service, they will spend an average of 10 percent more. Today more that ever companies are closely monitoring the voice of their customers. They are implementing proactive programs to gather and analyze information related to the customer’s needs and expectations.  More interesting is the fact that during the last 18 months, over 40% of these companies are taking specific sustainable actions related to significantly improving their customer experience. The “voice of the customer” refers to your process for capturing customer-related information. Voice-of-the-customer processes are intended to be proactive and continuously innovative to capture stated, unstated, and anticipated customer requirements, expectations, and desires. The goal is to achieve customer engagement.

The third possibility is that the leaders know about their tech problems and are concerned about them, but aren’t going to do anything about them. Maybe they don’t feel like they have the budget, the expertise, or the managerial bandwidth to take on a tech-heavy project now. This possibility is unacceptable. An organization can build its capabilities to improve service levels through the knowledge, skills and competencies of its people: build and sustain relationships with customers; innovate and improve technologies and meet changing business and market demands.

So this is the time to significantly improve your service levels; to be positioned to gain competitive advantage on the upside. If not now when?


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