What Does Great Service Really Look Like?

Almost every industry can be accused from time to time of seeing the world from the inside out rather than from the eyes of its customers. As a result, often what the industry in question thinks matters to its customers is at best in their mind a nice to have but rarely a deal breaker. In most instances customer’s basic expectations are often relatively modest.

Service is a case in point.

Sir Richard Branson was quoted as saying “Service is about answering a customer’s needs and wants, expectations and requirements without fuss.” Customers would just like things to happen, to be easy, simple and straightforward. Often we make it too hard, too complicated and too stressful in a world that is increasingly doing the same. And then we point to some grandiose initiative that is completely irrelevant to the customer and their purchase decision to cover over our failures to meet service requirements that should be basic.

In many instances great service is invisible. The retail environment just works. The customer can buy without having to think too much or modify their behaviour too much.

In the past ten years studies have shown that up to 92% of why we buy is un-conscious or subconscious. Proctor & Gamble research shows that over 70% of purchase decisions are made at the shelf face in the store and that this number is growing. Yale University research has proven that more and more purchases are being made on emotional and impulsive criteria.

The store has never been a more important place. And yet many retailers – large as well as small – do not understand what the customer expects from them in terms of service. To illustrate, banks have brought in a series of initiatives that have resulted in cue times being cut in half over the last seven years. BIG W has introduced self-serve kiosks that actually take longer for customer transaction processing. Yet the banks initiatives continue to get negative feedback while the BIG W one gets positive feedback. Why?

Because the BIG W initiative makes the customer feel like they are in control and have a choice while the banks system does nothing to overcome the feeling that they are in control of you.

Retail customers do not – as a general rule – expect the earth. They don’t expect store staff to have the answer to every question nor to be treated like royalty by an endless line of servants.

What they do expect is that their time is not wasted; that they are treated with respect; that they can get the right product when they want to buy it; that the product will work; that they are not ripped off; that the shopping experience is stress free and enjoyable; that they can shop efficiently in pleasant, well-maintained environments; and that they can feel in control.

Keep service simple and bullet-proof and you’ll get a hell of a lot more credit from your customers. Focus on the basics that really matter to them and you’ll not only maintain your relevance to them, you’ll continue to gain an increasing share of their expenditure.