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Perceptions

Whose Definition of Customer Service Are You Using?

by Jim Clemmer

Customer service and quality is highly talked about and rarely delivered. Consequently, many companies pay a high “marketing tax” to counteract damaged brand perceptions and bad buzz from poor customer service. Part of the problem is because service/quality is a very slippery concept. It’s exasperatingly difficult to define and a source of great confusion to many executives.

There are a range of differences in premises, concepts, and even in the meanings of key words. Definitions of “service/quality” depend on the mind set of servers/producers, their support groups, management, and especially on the culture of the organization. In some organizations, just showing up for work every day, in however snarly a mood, is considered a heroic feat. An overworked and under-appreciated call center representative might consider providing minimal information, regardless of how long the caller has been waiting, as good service/quality.

As Ted Levitt, former professor at Harvard Business School and author of the classic book, The Marketing Imagination, points out, “The organization must learn to think of itself not as producing goods and services but buying customers, as doing those things that will make people want to do business with it.”

Where’s the customer’s view in your definition of service/quality? Do you know (with facts and data) what your key internal partners and/or external customers expect from your team/organization? Is their definition of service/quality your starting point?

Your team or organization needs a clear, well understood, consistent — and customer-centered — agreement on what service/quality means and how to deliver it. If people throughout your organization can’t consistently define service/quality, how can you measure it? And if you can’t measure it, how can you achieve it?

Most managers and team members want to improve service/quality, but they are not all reading the same road map. But then again, they’re not even all heading to the same place. How about you and your team?

Jim Clemmer Leadership/culture development speaker, workshop/retreat facilitator, team builder, executive coach, and author

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