Service Done Right – The Best of the Best January |2011
Service Done Right – The Best of The BestBest-in-class companies go out of their way to cater to their customer base, usingservice as the key differentiating factor in trying to win them over…Ever wonder why most banks’ branches are open from 9am – 4pm only onweekdays, the exact same hours and days when a significant majority of theircustomers are working? And then when customers are actually able to visit duringtheir lunch breaks the branches are closed for lunch or have lines out the door?Or, when there is a significant delay or cancellation, that airlines don’t bothertelling their customers before they get to the airport? But when a passenger triesto check-in even one minute after the “45 minutes before departure” window heor she is denied and told to wait for the next flight?The poor service we as consumers receive from companies knows no bounds –not in terms of sector, nor in terms of the levels of it – companies seem to beliterally going out of their way to provide poor service every single chance theyget. But some don’t. Some place value on service, on ensuring their customers aretreated with respect.The above listed service downfalls are cited for a reason – because two best-in-class companies saw the opportunities that addressing them presented, and bydoing something about it, are now recognized by their customers, peers, and us atForte Consultancy Group alike as the best of the best:Commerce Bank: Opened in 1973 with one branch in the state of New Jersey inthe USA, this bank modeled itself not after other banks, but after retailers.Realizing that customers were not being done-right by their banks, they made it acore policy to work around their customers’ schedules. The bank’s stock grewmore than 2000% during the 1990’s, ultimately resulting in its’ highly profitableacquisition by TD Bank in 2007. Things setting this bank apart included: Being open 7 days a week, 365 days a year Staying open till 8pm on weekdays, until midnight on Fridays Always opening 10 minutes and closing ten minutes after stated branch hoursOther service differentiators included free coin-counting machines for childrenand adults alike, as well as free lollipops for the kids – this all on top of excellentcustomer service, supported by tens of thousands of mystery shops a year toensure quality remains high, and a wow team that rewards the best-performingemployees.
Qantas Airlines: All the way back in 2001, almost before SMS became anirreplaceable part of lives, Qantas launched the “Qantas Flight Update” service -sending details of flight departure time changes to registered users withcompatible mobile phones (for any delay of 30 minutes or more). Since then,many other airlines have followed suit; others still don’t offer it – British Airwaysjust launched their version last year, Turkish Airlines is without. Qantas has been apioneer of the aviation industry, particularly around the service it provides – it hasbeen recognized by Skytrax as being one of the five best airlines in the world inproviding service, for five years in a row now.Aside from the firms cited in the above examples, some other companies havebecome legends around delivering service, known for the best-in-class experiencethey provide their clients. Two of the most cited companies are:The Ritz-Carlton: The single most cited company when it comes to serviceexcellence, the hotel chain has won two Malcolm Baldrige Awards for the qualityof the service it provides its guest. Everything starts and ends with the “Ladies andGentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton,” the chain’s exceptionally well trained andempowered front-line staff. As one example of this empowerment, eachemployee is authorized to spend up to $2000 to rectify a customer problem orissue. The chain invests an extraordinary amount of time into training itsemployees around service excellence, particularly around its “Gold Standards,”the base in its service mantra. This service is so legendary and well recognizedthat non-hotel employees can even enroll for the course, to learn from the chain’sexperiences and approach.In addition, the company compiles a great deal of information regarding itscustomers, in order to provide better and better service in each customer stay.Ordered several diet 7-Ups on your stay last year in the Ritz-Carlton Dubai? It willbe waiting for you in your room when you arrive the next time you stay at a Ritz-Carlton, regardless of location.Nordstrom: Probably the most cited retailer when it comes to service excellence,this US chain has been renowned for the emphasis it places on service for over100 years now. At the core of its efforts is the empowerment of employees (in linewith The Ritz-Carlton), with a simple guide in place – “Use Good Judgment in AllSituations.”Every morning in every Nordstrom, employees start the day by telling stories oftheir customer interactions from the day before, sharing learnings and interestingexamples of the ways in which they excelled in servicing the clientele. In a similarvein, employees are encouraged to recognize other employees who they believehas gone above and beyond in delivering excellent service to a customer, forwhich the employee is recognized and rewarded.This excellence around service is supported by smart policies that guarantee nohassles for the customer base – for example, the merchandise refund policy is a
“no questions asked” one – if a customer wants to return any given product, he orshe can without having to give a reason. Another policy which in this day and ageis hard to find – customers can contact the store and department they want tospeak with directly – no calling a national contact center. Several books andawards later, Nordstrom continues to set the standard for the retail industryaround service excellence.For companies considering improving the level of service they are providing theircustomer base, we have several simple recommendations that should be followedin so doing: Employees Are Key – Excellence in service can only be achieved when itsdelivery is flawless. All the little and big things that employees do every day intheir interactions with customers define this delivery and its flawlessness. Fromholding the door open to smiling, to using the customer’s name and settingexpectations, the employees define the way customers see companies.As such, the biggest investment of time and resources around improving servicequality must be with and around employees – their trainings, compensation,rewards, promotion or demotion, all tied inseparably to service excellence. Data is Too! – Knowing as much as possible about customers on an individuallevel is of critical importance – the channels they interact through, their preferredtime for being contacted, their favorite products and services, theirdemographics, etc. Any and all data that can be used to customize the way inwhich a company interacts with each customer should be obtained, stored,analyzed, and used – just as The Ritz Carlton is ensure Diet 7-Up is waiting incertain guests’ rooms when they arrive, so too should any company tap into itscustomer data to go above and beyond in terms of service delivery. Wow Factor – Every company should look to do something for its customersthat no other company does, something that resonates with the base, and withmarket observers, becoming legend. A couple examples – The Ritz-Carlton eventrusts its janitors to spend $2,000 on guests to satisfy them…a no-cost version -Southwest Airlines’ hostesses sing songs before flights take off to put on a smileon their passengers’ faces. Get the Basics Right – The best service in the world wouldn’t help a companythat doesn’t have the basics right – a competitive set of products and services,offered through a variety of channels, at a competitive price, promoted in aneffect manner. Those companies that aren’t up to par around the basics shouldn’ttry to tackle their service issues.We recommend companies in the service industry examine their own operationsand the way they do business to determine whether they are more like the banks
and airlines mentioned at the beginning of this article, or more like The Ritz-Carltons and Nordstroms of the world. The findings will unfortunately be likelydisappointing.
About Forte Consultancy GroupForte Consultancy Group delivers fact-based solutions, balancing short and long termimpact as well as benefits for stakeholders. Forte Consultancy Group provides a varietyof service offerings for numerous sectors, approached in three general phases –intelligence, design and implementation. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Forte Consultancy Group | Istanbul Office www.forteconsultancy.com