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Differentiating with E-Service
 


I do lots of presentations on serving the customer.  And each time I begin, I see the faces up front, doubting, hoping, wondering "What is there about customer service that hasn't been said, and said, and said again?"  "Please, don't tell me to do what we all know I cannot do...make them love me!"

So, I ease into the topic.  "Why" I ask, "do you suppose customers fire us?" I get blank stares.  Savvy managers know it's typically not anything we've done to the customer...it's the total impact of the customer experience that deals the death blow.  I forge ahead.

"To understand why we are fired by our valued customers, we must look at how they became customers in the first place!"  I talk about how customers are sold; how we set expectations.  And I do that because that is the starting point for developing a serious reputation for service excellence.

Now, I'm a consultant working mostly in the home services industry...landscaping, lawn care, pest control, etc.  So, my clients typically don't interact with customers face to face that often...unless of course, there is trouble. Then, half of them cancel service without ever letting us know of their dissatisfaction! Wow! What's a service company to do? Is there a process that will translate into customer loyalty?  Briefly...sure.

This is a big topic.  For purposes of this post, I simply want to expose the topic and see what interest there is in exploring the process for building what I refer to as E-Service or, defined my way, E for excellence in service.

What is E-Service? My defininition is 'doing whatever it takes to make each customer feel special.'  That's it.  Not complicated but not easy either.

Is it possible? Yep, I work with businesses doing it every day.  How do they make it happen? Again, not complicated...but not easy either.  They go about the work of creating a true CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE.  It can and does happen. I see it, so, I know it's real.

What are the requirements? First, and most vital to success, is a top down recognition that, without a reputation for service excellence in today's service industry, you have one and only one thing to offer....price. And, as we all know, when you sell with price, you lose customers the same way...to the first 'low baller' who comes along and undercuts you.

It is possible to differentiate with service. This sort of differentiation is not new. Nordstroms and Southwest Airlines, each a representative of the high and low end products in their respective industries, have done it for decades.  So, it can be done.

In hard economic times...like the ones we face today and will in 2009, I believe it's worth looking at creating added value through E-Service.  As I said, it involves and requires a paradigm shift for most organizations. Still, it can and is being done.  Some of initial moves are bullet pointed below.

·     Recognition that selling price leads to low quality sales and no customer loyalty.
·     Setting reasonable expectations is a must in the marketing-sales message.
·     The sales process must provide continuity with the marketing message and brand reputation.
·     Service delivery must mirror expectations set.
·     The E-Service company will subscribe to the philosophy that "If you see a problem, you own the problem."
·     Service delivery and satisfaction levels are closely monitored. Results drive business tactics.
·     Employees are trained and cross trained to appreciate all team functions.
·     Communications skills are an absolute....and using them is NOT an option.
·     Customer 'touch points' are maximize and a personal, almost intimate relationship developed.
·     E-Service companies establish customer focused lines of authority and a reasonable escalation policy for problem-complaint resolution.
·     E-Service companies have a well thought out 'service recovery' process, ensuring that quick problem resolution resulting in complete customer satisfaction and brand strengthening.

These are a few of the skeletal fundamentals that are basic to the E-Service philosophy.  

 
 
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