Where do you set the bar for customer service?

How high do you set the bar for your customer service efforts? Why? Is the bar set that high, or low, because that is what your customers require or expect, or do you set it there because you can’t be realistic about what you are capable of accomplishing? Haven’t we all over-promised and under-delivered at some point in the past?

There was an interesting article in the July-August 2010 HBR Magazine titled Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers. The gist of the article is that you shouldn’t over-promise. Set the bar for customer service appropriately based on customer wants and needs and then make it easy for them to get that level of service through a number of methods that the customer can access.

The Ritz-Carlton provides a level of customer service that few companies ever reach. In a book titled “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit” Leonardo Inghillari and Micah Solomon write that not only does the Ritz-Carlton exceed customer expectations by providing exceptional service, they anticipate customer needs such that they solve problems before they happen. The Ritz-Carlton famously won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1992. But in the terms of Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers most of us can’t do what the Ritz-Carlton does and shouldn’t try or mislead our customers by saying we are capable of that level of service.

I read the HBR article several months ago and basically forgot it until I was reading a Jay Baer post on his Convince and Convert blog named “Maybe You’re Just Not Ready for Social Media.” He describes an experience at a hotel that over-promised and under-delivered. All of us could bear his story and the key take-aways from the HBR article in mind as we tout our own company’s capabilities.

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2 Responses to Where do you set the bar for customer service?

  1. Jay says:

    Thanks very much for the link and the kind words Doug. As much as I travel, I get exposed to a lot of shortcomings, unfortunately. But it’s the little things that are more annoying than the big ones, you know?

    • Doug says:

      Couldn’t agree more Jay. I’m cheap and don’t dry clean, so for me a room needs an iron that works. Obviously clean sheets, hot water, and a few other essentials are required but what I’ll remember most is the iron.

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