Everybody talks about how critical service is in differentiating you from the competition. Unfortunately for many businesses this is just rhetoric rather than reality. Below are some of the more frustrating service blind spots.
- The call centre script. This is a huge source of frustration for many people. The call centre operative is working with screen based prompts that only work if the enquiry is one of a small number of standard, predicable requests. The minute you want to have a conversation with a person you are lost in a world of robotic replies and ‘system says no’ cul-de-sacs. It can be made significantly worse by following the script in ways that are completely inappropriate. At the end of a 20 minute circular discussion about an unconnected phone with Pipex with the frustration levels hitting critical, the person said ‘Now is there anything else I can help with?’ This situation is made worse when dealing with off-shore call centres where the opportunity to defuse your frustration with humour or local empathy is lost. As always, First Direct is a model of excellence here, following the three principles of service excellence on the phone: no call routing prompts at the start; people trained to deviate from the script when required, and based in the UK.
- Transferring onto an earlier flight at the airport. Flying these days is all about hurry up and wait. Check in early, fight through security and take off way after the advertised time. This means many people get to the airport with time to spare and see an earlier fight still open. Some airlines make it easy to transfer onto this more convenient plane really easy. Lufthansa simply ripped up my boarding pass and issued a new one with the doors about to close, no problem, delighted to be of service. A similar airline wanted £40 for the privilege, on a ticket that cost £80.
- Tap water in restaurants. Some try to charge for it, others bring it reluctantly. Zizzi Pizzas bring it with ice and lemon, free of charge. A simple way of demonstrating the service imperative.
- When you go into a head office building (especially shared ones) do you notice the huge disconnect between the branding and quality of the service from the front desk/security compared to the ‘real’ reception. In some organisations the gap in quality is really horrible, in others they have worked hard at getting it right.
- The Saturday high street product knowledge obstacle course. Much of retail relies on school children at weekends. Some retailers think that product training involves telling the kids to read the features card in front of the product. This has everything to do with low cost (the ages fall outside the minimum wage), and nothing to do with providing a service. John Lewis has a different approach with proper training for all.
Check your own service orientation. It’s still easy to stand out from the crowd.