Uncommon Service

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Uncommon Service

How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business - Frances Frei and Anne Morriss

Even though providing excellent service is essential, you can't just tell your employees to go above and beyond whenever and wherever they can, then hope for the best. Instead, you need to incorporate greatness into the structure of your business. Or, to put it another way, you must construct your business model so that all employees, not just your great ones, consistently provide good service.

YOU CAN’T BE GOOD AT EVERYTHING
•    To achieve service excellence, you must underperform in strategic ways. This entails delivering on the service dimensions that your clients value the most and then making it profitable and sustainable by doing poorly on the dimensions that they value the least. To put it another way, you must be terrible in the service of good.
•    There is a significant difference between marketing and operating segments. Marketing segments instruct us on how to identify and communicate with various types of customers. Operating segments instruct us on how to service clients in various ways.
•    There are two main approaches to improve service: (1) meet your clients' existing demands more effectively, or (2) persuade them that they require what you already do well.

SOMEONE HAS TO PAY FOR IT
•    Service excellence must be financially supported in some way. Otherwise, you risk providing free service, which is service provided to clients but never paid for in any way.
•    A premium service experience can be funded in four ways: (1) encourage customers to pay you more for it, (2) cut expenses in ways that improve service, (3) improve service while cutting costs, or (4) get customers to appreciate performing some of the job for you. Method 1 is the simplest, at least in terms of design. The most dependable methods are 2 and 3. The fourth method receives the greatest attention. Extra service costs are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. Their success is determined on the contract you have with your clients.

IT’S NOT YOUR EMPLOYEE’S FAULT
•    The goal of a great service organisation is to achieve exceptional results with average employees. Many organisations build service models for personnel they don't have - for a payroll full of superstars when, in reality, the team has a healthy mix of talent and drive.
•    Incorporate this reality into the design of the business model. Selection, training, job design, and performance management are the four essential components of a successful personnel management system. These elements must be internally consistent and complementary to the remainder of the service model.
•    The increasing complexity of the job overwhelms the average service employee. When a corporation discovers a disparity between operational complexity and staff sophistication, it has two options: change the people or change the work. In other words, either (1) train and hire differently or (2) rethink the task so that it can be done by your current staff.

YOU MUST MANAGE YOUR CUSTOMERS
•    Service customers don't only buy a service; they also help to create it. They make the service faster or slower, better or worse, cheaper or more expensive to offer, among other things, for themselves and other customers. They are active producers (and detractors) of the value that they ultimately consume.
•    The more reliant your service business is on the conduct of customer-operators, the more critical it is to successfully manage them. Customer selection, training, and communication are the four components of a successful customer management system, similar to personnel management.
•    Not all customer service representatives are the same. They are faster, slower, wiser, pickier, later, sooner, or more or less equipped to accomplish their operational roles when compared to one another. This variety raises the expense and complexity of operating a service business.

NOW MULTIPLY IT ALL BY CULTURE
•    It’s not enough to design your service model right. When outstanding organisational design meets a culture of service excellence, uncommon service is achieved. A simple way to think about it is that service excellence is the result of design and culture.
•    Excellent service in their interaction with culture, companies tend to do three things well. They are crystal clear about the organisational culture that must be fostered to compete and win. They are effective in communicating the norms and values that characterise that culture. They also work hard to establish cultural consistency, which is the alignment of the desired culture with organisational strategy, structure, and operations.

Customer satisfaction is not an afterthought. It must be built into the business model to give consistently good service. Authors Frances Frei and Anne Morriss explain in their book Uncommon Service that outstanding service is "made possible - profitable, sustainable, and scalable - by developing a system that allows everyone to excel."  

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