When a business is comfortable with not being regarded as a superstar by its customers in the area of service excellence, what word do we use to describe this attitude? Indifference. When many businesses across several sectors demonstrate a similar attitude, how do we describe this state? As a crisis of indifference.
Here’s the clear, but not so apparent danger that we face regarding service excellence. So many businesses exist in such a fossilized state of indifference to excellence in the way that they serve their customers, that service under-satisfaction, inconsistency of delivery and fluctuating standards have become normalized. Whilst the sub-par level of customer experience is problematic, the bigger danger is the indifference.
When indifference becomes so normalized that there is no rush to reverse the trending state, the landing strip ends at apathy. These days, there’s a lot of apathy in the service sector. What should be trending is a passionate dash to understand customers inside out, an infusion of artificial intelligence into day-to-day operations and the creation of experiences that enrich customers’ lives.
When indifference becomes so normalized that there is no rush to reverse the trending state, the landing strip ends at apathy. These days, there’s a lot of apathy in the service sector.
What is amazing and a little distressing, is that there are so few businesses committed fully, to becoming service excellence superstars. I will say that there is quite a bit of service improvement activity, but it’s primarily limited to training events that focus on frontline upskilling to optimize face-to-face interaction with customers.
The widely-held presupposition, is that great frontline encounters will generate overall favourable customer sentiment ratings for the entire business, even when the state of middle and back-office service delivery lags behind that of the frontline experience. Let’s think about this for a minute. It’s saying that if frontline staff can pacify an irate customer who is upset because of a transactional error, this is a good customer outcome. What about if the frontline staff were not responsible for the error and it was as a result of back-office inefficiency? What about if the errors go un-corrected? Are frontline employees expected to keep smiling and pacifying indefinitely?
What should be trending is a passionate dash to understand customers inside out, an infusion of artificial intelligence into day-to-day operations and the creation of experiences that enrich customers’ lives.
This is the mythology that promotes the false positioning of training as a major stand-alone pillar upon which achievement of service excellence is dependent. The falsehood is that training is a primary solution that will fix and repair major service delivery issues. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Indifference is a deceptive comfort zone. It promotes a tolerance for mediocrity, stifles progressive action and neutralizes the emergence of a competitive spirit. Businesses cease to compete against themselves and there is comfort in the “good enough” space. The yearning for being at the pinnacle of excellence is not a driving force.
Like attracts like and water finds its level. Another huge danger is that a business that is indifferent to the quality of its service delivery, will attract customers who are indifferent to the business. Don’t count on those customers becoming loyal anytime soon. They are just too indifferent. A more realistic expectation would be that these indifferent customers can and will be soft targets for the superstar competitors.
What is amazing and a little distressing, is that there are so few businesses committed fully, to becoming service excellence superstars.
To the businesses that reach for superstardom in service excellence, indifference is regarded as a real enemy of success. Their endgame is about becoming superstars in the eyes of their customers. They reject the possibility of existing in the zone of indifference.
So how can businesses delink from this enfeebling state? Well, for starters, they can send a signal that they will no longer be taking customers for granted. This means stepping up the effort to understand customers inside out and then, having been endowed with enriched intelligence, proceeding to remove barriers to customer happiness, one by one. May I suggest that the first barrier to be removed should be the lack of a business-wide sense of urgency, if such exists? A business with a sense of urgency will hardly be a good candidate for indifference.
Another huge danger is that a business that is indifferent to the quality of its service delivery, will attract customers who are indifferent to the business.
Another neutralizer of indifference, is seeing the cost of poor customer experience in black and white. When businesses begin to track, record and cost their service delivery ball dropping, a wake-up call ensues and even the finance department that may be typically a bit nonchalant on matters of customer experience, finds its voice.
A crisis of indifference to service excellence is spawned from sustained apathy to striving for customer experience stardom and I would say that this is one crisis that can be averted.
All that is required is an appetite for brilliance.