I don’t know about you but these day I practically hallucinate when I find a company or service provider that Rocks me with its service. And I don’t just means the service that takes *care* of things, but rather the service that is so super sensitive that nothing is too much trouble and you almost feel obliged to pay double for the offering.
Can you think of someone like this? Few and far between I bet.
The principal issue is that we have become accustomed, or perhaps anaesthetised, to mediocre or even sub-standard service. Perhaps also we have forgotten what good service looks or feels like.
Think of some examples:
- Banks: when was the last time you had a quality face to face meeting with someone from your bank (or even a decent chat with the cashier) where you didn’t feel that time was of the essence or worse still you knew you were being lined up for a sub-sale of products or service lines that were of no interest to you?
- Your Internet provider.
- Your mobile phone provider. Mine told me that they hadn’t sold me a handset when it went wrong for the umpteenth time but just a “contract”. Somehow they couldn’t answer me when I asked them how I made and received calls on a “contract”.
- The garage where you buy petrol. I can’t remember the last time I saw the same face twice at mine and the offering at the pump was very much geared to paying by credit card so that we didn’t have to have any contact with the person on the till. So much for the “Service Station”.
- Oh, and I nearly forgot the checkout at my local supermarket. I was told by someone who seemed to be in the know (a more regular shopper than me I figure) that check out staff were likely to be phased out and we were all going to be forced to use the self serve checkout. You know the one that never works and there is always a person hanging about to sort out the bag which seems to cause no end of problems! Now there’s progression for you.
And I could go on but you get the picture.
To keep things balanced, I am sure all of the above mentioned would say that this was progress – the usual trite stuff would be trotted out: this is what the customer demands; and there is a cost imperative.
I don’t know about you but I don’t buy it (well I do actually because I have no choice in most cases).
This is no longer the thin edge of the wedge. NO – the wedge is firmly ensconced into our psyche. We seem to have meekly accepted the inevitable weakening of the bridge between the provider and the consumer to such an extent that we have passed the point of no return. Proper service is a really a bygone notion.
Now, what does this have to do with professional services? I would have thought it was obvious.
What we are now seeing is the same paradigm shift with: (a) an increasing focus on cost with the lowest possible level of fee earner being required to deal with a transaction; (b) hourly rates being the epicentre of the client relationship rather than service delivery being paramount; (c) commoditization of legal services at the low end (in other words bundling up of a product to dispatch the service with all haste): (d) more services being delivered remotely and across the Web; and (e) a drive at winning work from competitors which usually means undercutting the opposition.
I am not a dinasaur (or at least I don’t think I am) and I accept that change is inevitable – indeed as the late Sir John Harvey Jones wrote about in his first book, Making it Happen, absent change (and more than tinkering with the product or serivce propostion) businesses eventually die. I agree; but my complaint is that this *inevitable* paradigm shift should wherever possible enhance and not diminish our customer experience.
Having spent over 10 years in the delivery of professional services (I am no longer practising as a solicitor), my modus operandi was, despite the hubris surrounding my hourly billing, to put service centre stage. I never faltered in that commitment.
Of course, all businesses will say that clients are important but my experience is that billing or charging the client was always centre stage.
I don’t care what market you operate in, if you really want to make a difference put Service (yes with a capital S) as the central tenet of your business (right behind the mantra of making sure your people are recognised as the prize asset) and the business will be successful and I mean really successful.
If you don’t know what Superpleasing looks like – going beyond the call of duty- ask your best clients what they like about you and make sure that the bar is set no lower than that but ideally much, much higher.
- I would be really interested to hear from if you have a good story to tell that espouses the pleasure/delight/passion of top drawer service;
- If we are to be drawn into an age where everything or nearly everything is driven across the net, then how can social media make the experience more pleasurable. [I long for the day where I hear a human voice as part of the transaction and someone saying with some sincerity “Thank You”].