As it appeared in the Daily Nation on July 24th 2018
Most businesses I interact with think they are providing a “not so bad” customer service. Very few managers and staff alike admit that their service could be dismal. Even if their customers were to rate them as a 7, 6, 5, or even 4 out of 10, they would be content, after all many others are providing a worse service. What a repulsive way of looking at customer service!
A few days ago, I reached out to a manager at a hotel regarding her team’s level of service. Unfortunately, the manager simply dismissed it and said she had done all that needs to be done to improve service. In yet another incidence when making a call on behalf of my mother to the Teachers Service Commission, I was put on waiting as the staff went on chatting with her colleague in the background. We all could give many customer service stories revealing that all is not well in most organizations. The levels of service provided remains a major concern for most customers and customer experience enthusiasts.
It is almost seven years since Ron Kaufman first described the six levels of customer service in an article on bloomberg.com. Ron a customer service guru behind the Singapore airlines and Changi airport service culture continues to speak about these seven levels of service. Just a few days ago at the 2018 World Credit Union Conference in Singapore, Ron was one of the keynote speakers and once again, he outlined the six levels of customer service that some in business may never have heard about. Starting from the lowest, they are criminal, basic, expected, desired, surprising, and unbelievable. Every person whether a service provider or a customer should be familiar with the level of service they give or receive. Is it criminal or is it desired or even unbelievable?
Ron describes criminal service as being really bad violating even the minimum expectations. He describes basic service as disappointing, expected service as nothing special, desired service as what customers hope for and prefer, surprising service as being special and unbelievable service as being astonishingly fantastic and one that customers can’t forget. What is your level of service? How do you suppose your customers would describe your level of service?
Ron goes ahead to say that these levels are not static because the bar is continuously rising. Customers are becoming more demanding and competitors are becoming better. Therefore, smart companies need to be intentional about the kind of service they provide. Why not aim for the highest level of service? We can get better by listening more to our staff and customers and always looking out for service improvement opportunities from the inside-out. There is always an opportunity to get better.
When customers describe the level of service received they do so with a lot of passion. The customers’ word of mouth is powerful. The good news is that we have control over what our customers say. It is criminal to imagine that we are providing the highest level of service when our customers think that we have not even mastered the basics!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy