Make your success: Service Excellence Required
What IT is
Service excellence, the IT factor, is a positive by-product of a High-Performance Team and a company’s overall culture. The Zappos’ customer service story is famous and bears repeating. “Mrs. Smith” placed a special order for her husband; however, her husband passed before the gift arrived. Mrs. Smith called to cancel but the order had shipped. After finding out why, not only was the shipment stopped, the Zappos’ agent sent flowers to Mr. Smith’s memorial. This behavior doesn’t happen by chance. Service excellence is embedded in the habits of a company from the CEO down. IT is made part of a company’s DNA.
Conversely, my wife and I recently had an experience with a well-known appliance manufacturer known for having compressor design defects (class action lawsuit settled). The refrigerator was less than 3 years old and one Sunday we noticed everything in the freezer wasn’t frozen. I called the manufacturer’s customer service and was told an authorized service technician would be available 6 days out simply to diagnose the problem. The refrigerator was stocked so that was a negative option but the only option the representative was allowed to offer. I had a reputable, though not manufacturer authorized, service company verify and document my suspicion the next day (Monday) that the compressor failed. The technician told me, “This is common. The particular manufacturer had settled a class-action lawsuit the previous year for defective compressors.” The cost of repair (replaced with another defectively designed compressor) was 85% of the cost of a new unit. We opted for door “B.” We packed all of the food in coolers and by Wednesday a new (albeit different brand) was delivered and installed, 3 full days before a manufacturer’s authorized tech could even diagnose. The submitted invoice was rejected because “an authorized tech” did not diagnose the issue. The poor experience could have been stopped at any number of levels. This company made a conscious decision to continue to produce defective units AND created roadblocks to a positive customer experience.
Service excellence is measured every day when we complete satisfaction surveys. Quantifiable numbers are important to measure past performance but the feeling a particular client experiences for both excellent (endorphins kick in) and poor service is long-lasting and likely to determine the level that customer will go to praise or criticize or worst of all, dismiss the company altogether (apathy). Too many customers feeling apathetic will spread like a wildfire. Conversely, excellent service provides an airbag to soften the blow when a company doesn’t deliver up to normal standards. Remember though, airbags are one-use tools and hurt when activated. Establish your Service Excellence Plan from the moment you sign the franchise agreement.
Two powerful selling tools for your franchise are customer loyalty (repeat sales without extra selling time) and testimonials. The most efficient selling tool is a customer referring you to someone they know in need of what you offer. Customers like to help those companies that help them feel good and provide what they need. But, give a customer a bad feeling about your company and they are quick to shout it from the social media mountain top.
Excellent customer service increases the internal efficiencies of your franchise. Without adding extra resources fixing, apologizing and agonizing over bad experiences, your franchise can focus on how to add more value to your company and its customers’ experiences. Now, let’s say your franchise consistently performs in the excellent to phenomenal range but Mr. Jones is not happy with your customer service representative (who just lost their pet that week). This anomaly will stick out. You have the opportunity to not only win back Mr. Jones as a customer, but also, increase his loyalty depending on how your franchise handles the after-effects of poor service.
Working for your Service Excellence Striving Franchise is also rewarding for your employees and will aid with employee retention. Most people like to feel good about what they do for a living. A company that is always scrambling to “make things right” is bound to have finger pointing, chaos and dissension with its employees.
Consistency in the Service Excellence realm sets expectations for the customer service experience on every level internally and externally. This allows for outliers to be recognized and corrected quickly and efficiently.
How to Move Service Excellence Forward
- Dig deep with the following questions:
- What do customers really expect (not what we think they expect)?
- How will we set up systems to exceed customer expectations?
- What is the most efficient way to find relevant information?
- What systems are needed to periodically challenge and review these expectations?
- Establish systems to measure internal and external performance against expectations. Transparency and an action plan for constant improvement are crucial.
- Constantly review all processes in place for relevance and accuracy. Six Sigma teaches pure perfection is not possible and near-perfection is prohibitively costly; however, Successful Franchise Owners can implement cost-effective systems to move closer.
- Look for results outside the norm (positive and negative) daily and address immediately. Heaping praise for the positive interactions and correcting the interactions that fall short.
- Incorporate Service Excellence in periodic strategic planning sessions. Embed IT in your franchise’s daily life.
- Find out if customer expectations change and never assume what works today is going to work next week.
- Each expectation should be reviewed with an associated cost/benefit analysis.
- For each external customer, map all interaction points and have the systems in place to exceed expectations. The volunteer ushers at every Cincinnati Reds game are taught from the start that after showing a fan to their seat, wipe the seat for them. This happens in the nose bleed seats as well as the Diamond seats. A small but powerful message that makes a single fan feel important 21,000 times per game.
- Do what’s right especially when no one is looking.
- Be kind to everyone. There is no extra effort required to smile and be kind to anyone you meet.
Service Excellence is a process that few companies deliver consistently. Your franchise operations manual is a start. But expectations of customers in Mid-Town Manhattan may be different than those in Tulsa. Know YOUR customers and their expectations. Work smart and hard and exceed those on a regular basis.
About the Founder – 20 Years’ Experiences in Franchise Leadership
Luke Frey improves franchise owners’ businesses where corporate support alone fails. He brings 26+ years of varied professional experiences including 20 years as a franchise owner of ImageFIRST Cincinnati, 6 years as an industrial engineer for a Fortune 250 company (3 while living in Honduras, C.A.) and 19 years as a volunteer firefighter. All of these experiences, in addition to his drive to learn, have brought him to be a positive driving force for other franchise owners’ successes. Luke is currently a member of the Center for Executive Coaching and is in the final publishing phase of his first children’s book. To learn more about Luke and how Bella Vista Executive Advisors can help, please click HERE www.bellavistaexecutiveadvisors.com
Luke’s franchise achievements:
- Purchased the first ImageFIRST franchise available to the market in 1998 and assisted the franchisor in expansion to other major markets.
- Grew his ImageFIRST franchise from $0 weekly revenue to over $50k in weekly contracted sales.
- Expanded his market to include the Columbus, Ohio region.
- 4 out of 7 employees worked with Luke at least 15 years.
- Sold his franchise and ensured a smooth transition of ownership.
- Guided the growth of a volunteer fire department of 25 members to be a 50-member unpaid professional organization as its chief.