Thinking about someone else is service-Ron Kaufman on service and value

The aspiration and quest for higher service is an “always on” agenda for any service-oriented business. In this age of seamless connectivity and information availability, products and services are easy to replicate and pace of improvements are rapid. Several small and monumental service innovations continue to redefine industry standards and the turf continues to get tougher by the day. The rules of exceptional service, however, remain unchanged. The renowned management speaker and author of the globally acclaimed book, ‘Uplifting Service,’ Ron Kaufman defines service as “taking action to create value for someone else.” Kaufman, who was speaking at the annual SHRM conference in Gurgaon describes service in six levels that range from undesirable to incredible. According to Kaufman, the six levels of service are― criminal, basic, expected, desired, surprising, and unbelievable.

Data can help, but only if you want it to

Advancements in technology and analytics enable several in-depth insights into what constitutes “delight factors” for a customer. Simple CRM systems can become useful tools for frontline staff to delight customers. Many times, the challenge is not about the cost and effectiveness of building the right platform, but more a question of the organisational leadership’s intent. A great service experience is a marriage between exceptional service design coupled with the intent to delight.

When an individual decides to delight a customer, s/he may be able to do it despite all odds. But that’s not sustainable. What organisations really need is to create a service process to create customer delight, even if there are multiple stakeholders and teams involved.’ Data and analytics can be used effectively as means to create customer delight. Data can track buying histories, spending patterns, and product preferences to pre-empt and fix points of failure in a service delivery process. On top of that, pre-empting customer expectations and proactive resolution of process-level issues may contribute to higher-order customer experiences, such as surprise and delight.

An example of exceptional service delivery can be typified with the following example. A customer calls his neighbourhood pizza delivery outlet to order pizza. When a customer calls for a pizza delivery and the customer representative on the other side proactively asks questions like “if the customer wants to order the same pizza as last week’s” and “if s/he would like to pay seamlessly through the same credit card used the last time” it delights the customer. How does the customer representative know all this? There was someone at the back-end of the chain who thought it would be cool to integrate the phone caller IDs with the CRM systems. Data can help in many ways, but only if you want it to. Its not magic!

The four categories of value

The intent to delight is dependent to a great extent to what Kaufman describes as the four categories of value― primary product, delivery system, service mind-set, and ongoing relationships. Each one is interdependent and they collectively comprise the four essentials of customer delight.

Talking on the topic of service and value is not easy anymore; almost everything about service is already said and heard. Hearing Ron Kaufman talk about service is a delight though! He keeps the audience engaged, he modulates his voice, mimics imaginary Germans and Scandinavians, and does not tire his audience; even though his speech may be long. He is not a selfish orator! Perhaps that’s the biggest testimony of his orientation towards service.