The Essential Mechanics of Exceptional Service Experiences

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Delivering Exceptional Service Experiences is the Difference Between Winning and Losing in the Experience Economy

Experience continues to be today’s leading value driver — at the 2020 WEF in Davos, Bank of America’s CEO confirmed that people are “spending a lot on experiences”. Unfortunately, not all experiences are created equally – many undoubtedly “get the job done”, however, far too many can be utterly illogical or “painful” to customers.

Leaders and practitioners in customer-facing operations, CX and other experience and service-intensive roles, recognize that simply focusing on “getting the job done” is no longer good enough to consistently meet the new standard of delivering exceptional experiences. This is where the really hard, on-going work to optimize and rewire customer and service experiences comes in.

Unfortunately, many services and experiences that exist today have been put together in a haphazard manner, are poorly articulated, and are poorly aligned to customer expectations. As a result, whether it’s a customer’s experience in purchasing a new car, checking out at the local grocery store, or ordering cable television service, service interactions, or touchpoints have become sources of profound customer frustration, brand erosion and diminished customer loyalty. The disconnect between the growing service expectations of customers, and the inability of some internally-focused businesses and brands to meet those expectations has made improvements and advancements in service delivery and customer experience an urgent matter and compelling opportunity.

Service Excellence Matters.

Beyond the delivery of exceptional customer experience, Service Excellence, is about creating emotional barriers to entry and higher switching costs by making leaps in customer value and reduced customer effort, while simultaneously reducing costs to deliver. The ability for organizations to deliver services with excellence is not only a primary point of reference with customers, but also a window into a particular organization’s culture, basic business logic and value delivery equation. In the context of customer experience, service excellence must be framed as value delivered to the customer and value to the company. Practically, achieving service excellence represents operational and organizational choices that businesses and brands must make to balance the natural tensions between the customer-facing factors of price/value and the internal company factors of costs/capacity. This calculus makes service delivery equations a core basis of competition and a high-priority strategic decision for leadership. Operationally, service excellence relies on several underlying factors:

Innovating Service Delivery.

Converting service touchpoints into sources of growth, loyalty and advocacy requires an “outside-in” approach to service delivery.  Service delivery relies on the institutional and individual body of knowledge, tools and principles that enable organizations to demonstrate  how they use intangible service interactions to deliver tangible value to customers. An organization’s reputation for delivering compelling services and service experiences to customers sends a powerful signal of quality and value that can retain customers and attract non-customers. With exceptional service delivery, companies can move beyond core products and service propositions that can be easily copied, to create more novel and durable ways to interact, serve and create value in the eyes of customers. Service delivery is a war that businesses and brands simply cannot afford to lose.

Improving Service Quality. The experience that customers have as they interact with services can shape their overall brand perceptions of the service provider and influence their willingness to pay. As a basic requirement to meet service expectations and protect existing customers from competitive incursions, companies must take deliberate actions to measure and improve the quality of their services. With service excellence, companies can go further by using the delivery of high-quality services as a means to actually attract non-customers.  Businesses and brands can do this by viewing individual services as a network of touchpoints that form an end-to-end service experience. From this integrated view of the service experience, companies can develop strategies and solutions that remove variations, align the underlying service delivery infrastructure, and embed quality in every service touchpoint.

Improving Service Utility. Services share many characteristics (sequence, timing, control points, etc.) with processes. However, unlike processes, companies should resist the urge to design services at the lowest possible costs, reengineer them for maximum efficiency, or make them too complicated to use. With service innovation, companies can go beyond the cost, efficiency and complexity factors of processes to focus on creating service interactions that are meaningful to customers on an emotional level, address specific jobs to be done, and can become embedded as trusted components in their daily lives (for business-to-consumer services) or workflow (for business-to-business services).

Improving Service Agility. Customer perceptions and satisfaction can be influenced heavily by the degree to which they feel understood, relevant and valued. This dynamic is particularly important as customer needs evolve over time, where the ability for brands to adapt to those changes has even more influence on satisfaction, retention, growth and advocacy. With the mechanisms of service excellence, organizations can build and deliver the entire network of service touchpoints, service experiences and voice of the customer “listening posts” that position them to identify and exploit proactively, rather than reactively, the most subtle changes in customer behavior, sentiment or expectations. This responsiveness delivers immediate value to customers, while also improving brand loyalty, creating high emotional switching costs for customers, and increasing the potential for reciprocal advocacy from customers that can further generate growth from referral sales.

Leaders can get started by considering a key strategic question: How can we engineer a service-based culture, operations and brand reputation that separates us from the crowd, drives growth and creates passionate brand advocates?

To learn more about the power of service excellence culture, leadership operations, customer experience culture, memorable customer service and employee engagement read the full article by Wayne Simmons of Opptiv – The Service Excellence Company on CustomerThink:

This article was informed by personal experiences as the Global Service Delivery Leader at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center and working with businesses and brands on their must urgent customer and service challenges.

About the Author:

As co-founder and Chief Experience Officer of Opptiv, Wayne Simmons was previously the Global Head of Delivery for The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.  As a thought leader, change agent and an expert experience strategy consultant, he led a team dedicated to delivering the legendary ethos, practices and systems of the Ritz-Carlton brand for client organizations across industries. Wayne leverages the principles of Horst Schulze, Cofounder of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and creator of that brand’s legendary reputation for service excellence and customer-centric culture. As a Trusted Advisor working at the intersection of HR, CX and C-Suite leaders, Wayne coaches, trains and consults with businesses and brands on their journeys to maximize customer growth, loyalty and attain competitive advantage through service excellence and customer experience culture, leadership and operations.

About Opptiv:

 What to learn more?  Check out our services page.

Opptiv is the Service Excellence Consultancy. We help businesses and brands win through service excellence culture, customer-centricity and exceptional customer experience. Unique in the industry, we take a playbook approach to help clients achieve business outcomes at enterprise scale. We start by applying Design Thinking to activate leaders and engage frontline talent in the co-creation of purposeful culture platforms and unique service propositions that all levels can understand, embrace and hold each other accountable for. We then create brand-aligned playbooks to document the underlying elements of the culture as actionable guidance, practices and function-specific “plays”. Finally, we use these playbooks to inform the internal communications and tailored training needed to align, integrate, reinforce and sustain service excellence across all parts of the business.

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