Service as Competitive Advantage: Creating New Value vs. Sustaining Predictable Results
When you picture a superior service culture, you may not think of a large engineering firm or a manufacturing organization. Rather, you may think about high-end hotels, top-rated airlines, or innovative retail brands. But in a competitive global market where products are commoditized and speed of delivery easily matched, quality service is a key differentiator in every industry – including financial services, manufacturing, high tech IT, telecommunications, logistics, and more.
For many of these technical and production-oriented firms, success in the past has come from producing predictable results at higher speed and lower price. The cultural focus of these firms has been on operational excellence: reducing costs, improving quality, and accelerating every step along the way. But today, these characteristics are the price of entry for technical and production firms. The smartest of these organizations are looking outside this model to create larger, longer-lasting, and more value-creating relationships and partnerships with their clients .
To succeed means more than simply being faster, better or cheaper. It means discovering what is not yet being done, and creating new value with innovative ideas and actions. The question to ask is no longer “How do we improve the service we are providing?”, but rather “What ideas and actions will create new value that we are not yet offering?”
At UP! Your Service, our definition of service is “taking action to create value for someone else”. For our clients, this value comes in the products and services we provide. But it also comes in the way we deliver the products and services, in the service mindset of all our team members, and in the long-term relationships and collaborative partnerships we build.
Are you looking in all of these categories for new ideas and value-creating opportunities? Are you measuring your actions in these domains? Executive dashboards can be used to measure many things including volume, speed, sales, profits, defects or slippage. But how many senior level dashboards include measures of service innovation? If you manufacture products, maintain software, or engineer solutions, are you also tracking “How many new ideas have been generated this week, this month, this year?” Do you know “How many new actions have we taken with each customer or client?”
Traditional customer satisfaction scores look back at what you have already done, not forward towards what else you can do. Asking customers “Are you satisfied, not satisfied, very satisfied?” will not guide you to specific actions you can take to add or create more value.
These are the four questions we ask our Clients, and suggest you should be asking your client on a regular basis:
- What are we doing now that you want us to keep doing?
- What are we doing now that you would like us to stop doing?
- What are we not doing now that you would like us to do or try?
- What is any other partner or supplier doing that you would like us to do for you, too?
Imagine everyone in your organization asking these questions. Not just clients, but colleagues as well. In every part of the organization, including the corner office, the production floor, the warehouse and the back office. Imagine following up 30 days later with: “We heard what you said and we took some new action. Did we create any new value for you this month?” Sometimes you will hear a grateful “Yes”, and sometimes a disappointed “No”. But this tension is not to be avoided. It is the creative tension needed to stimulate conversations, generate innovations, and discover new ways that to add and create more value.
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