Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit

The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization

 Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit

Authors: Leonardo Inghilleri, Micah Solomon
Pub Date: April 2010
Print Edition: $21.95
Print ISBN: 9780814415382
Page Count: 192
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814415399

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How to Build Anticipation Into Your Brand Promise

Principles for Providing Exceptional Customer Service

What separates the best service companies, the legendary service providers, the industry leaders from the crowd of businesses? It’s not prestige or panache, but their painstakingly honed ability to recognize and respond to their customers’ needs and wishes—sometimes before their customers even realize they need or want anything.

“That is the difference between providing ho-hum service by merely reacting to customers requests and building loyalty through true anticipatory service,” says Leonardo Inghilleri, one of the architects of The Ritz-Carlton’s peerless win of two Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards and the coauthor, with famed entrepreneur Micah Solomon, of EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE, EXCEPTIONAL PROFIT (AMACOM April 2010). In Inghilleri and Solomon’s book, anticipatory service depends on taking a systematic approach to incorporating procedures and product features that improve the customer’s experience. Here’s how to begin:

 Think like a customer. Make it a clear, company-wide goal to learn what customers are likely to want, need, and appreciate. Encourage employees to experience the customer experience. We’ve all been to places where it seems that no employee has ever eaten the food, used the customer washroom, or placed vanishing items in the website’s shopping cart. To avoid being one of those companies, institutionalize the internal, systematic use and testing of your own services or products. Offer deep discounts or comps for employees, but with a string attached: They must take detailed notes and—if this is realistic—remain anonymous, so they experience the same services other guests would.

 Rely on MR. BIV to eliminate defects. Conceived at The Ritz-Carlton, MR. BIV is a streamlined, easy-to-teach way to look for defects and defective situations. It stands for: Mistakes, Rework, Breakdowns, Inefficiencies, and Variation in work processes. Any employee, at any level, must alert the appropriate person to a MR. BIV situation at once. When MR BIV shows up, ask “Why?” as many as five times to reach the root cause of the problem rather than merely the symptoms. Deputize every employee as an “improvement manager” who is responsible for implementing the MR. BIV system. And never attack employees for the problems that MR. BIV—or any continuous improvement system—reveals.

 Reduce waste to add value. Every service-driven company stands to gain from studying and adopting manufacturing-centered systems and controls. Systems such as Total Quality Management and Lean Manufacturing share the insight that a company can increase its value by continually focusing on and trimming waste. Waste can come in the form of excess inventory, overproduction, inappropriate processing, unnecessary transport, waiting, and defects.

 When stamping out waste, don’t crush value by accident. If you think your customers won’t miss those follow-up thank-you cards or a website feature they rarely use, think again. People form emotional attachments to not only your products, but also to your employees, your procedures, and your service-features. Even if most customers won’t be able to tell you what specific aspects of your service make them feel special, place a priority on paying attention to details. Don’t delete crucial value from your service offerings in the name of efficiency. If it takes a thousand “inefficient” experiences to create loyal customers, so be it.

 Balance process-based anticipation on the Internet with genuine, human caring. Providing anticipatory service on the Internet is easy, thanks to sophisticated software algorithms that offer individualized guidance to customers based on their past interactions and similar browsing patterns. While humans appear to be wired to respond appreciatively, beware of crossing the line from “ultra-functionality” to “creepiness.” Do your customers want to have their behavior tracked even before they log into your site? Combine anticipatory technology with interactive tools to help you build the viewpoint of your customers into each of your products and services. For example, an on-site, three-to-seven question “quiz” is a non-invasive way to gather useful information about your customers’ experience.

Adapted from EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE, EXCEPTIONAL PROFIT: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon (AMACOM 2010).

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