Service employees and their customers don’t always get along. Depending on who you ask, if you were to take a random sample of helpdesk employees, you’d likely receive positive and negative feedback about their customers. Unfortunately, that’s the truth and that’s a shame.
Grateful customers make working in the service industry fun. They are also more understanding when a problem arises. This understanding results in easier collaboration in the search for a solution. That is how satisfied customers lead to satisfied service providers. Striving for customer satisfaction is all about meeting expectations. And there are many. You have more than one customer and their wishes vary per person and situation. High expectations make things difficult; unknown expectations even more so. That is why it is important to understand your customers and manage their expectations.
Where do expectations come from and can you influence them?
Expectations and experience with your competitor
Expectations are not only formed by good knowledge and logical reasoning; past experiences are equally important. Your customer does not only have experience with your services, but with many others. And with every new experience, they can adjust their expectations of you. This gives us an important insight: You are competing for customer satisfaction.
All other service providers are your competitor. You could see it as an unfair competition; your competitors are very different companies and organizations, with different goals and budgets. All of them create their own mix from the aspects that define services: the measure of personal approach, the speed, clear information, freedom of choice, flexibility and how they unburden their customers and offer them independence. And your services are compared to that which they do best.
Learn from your competitors
It is good to be aware of your competition. It keeps your organization alert to the quality you offer and possible improvements. And when you are a customer yourself, you can notice the effect someone else’s service has on you. You can learn from your competitor. It is an instance of healthy industrial espionage, so to speak. So, where do we start? Restaurants are a good example of a competitor in the service industry from which we can learn a lot.
When we visit a restaurant, we are as sensitive to the server as we are to the food itself. We want to be served attentively, but do not wish to be disturbed in our conversation. We want a clear explanation of the menu and do not want to repeat our order. This is why the tables in a restaurant are divided into sections. Each table has one waiter who checks on you during the evening. We receive timely updates if something takes a little longer and the waiter knows when we need something. The waiters are well informed and know the menu, the processes behind it, and the current status of our order and our wishes. They are in direct contact with the kitchen and are easily approachable. If this is not the case due to the restaurant being extremely busy, we can understand. After all, we see how busy it is.
Another example of a service competitor is a home furnishing store. We visit because we don’t want to trawl through an endless number of stores to furnish our homes. And forget about hiring an interior decorator. These furniture stores have long opening hours and large stocks. The photos in the catalogue and the showroom displays provide inspiration for our living room or bedroom. We can even design our own kitchen on their website. The products are not pre-assembled and can easily fit in the car. Transporting them yourself saves money and time. The furniture is easy to assemble, and the store employees are always available for questions.
Customers can share their designs on the website: our competitor lets its customers inspire each other.
What can we learn?
Both the restaurant and the furniture store have very different approaches, but they provide exactly the services we expect. The former excels in a personal approach, accuracy and unburdening its customers. You can go a long way with an accessible and knowledgeable service desk. Particularly if the service desk has immediate insight into the status of a call or request, communicates well with the back office, and is proactive in offering updates and compromises. Fixed and visible contact persons are also an option. And if you want your customer to show consideration during busy times, you must let them know that it is busy – this isn’t always clear.
The furniture store, on the other hand, excels in flexibility and offering the customer independence. Everything is clear and understandable, so customers can easily arrange everything themselves. You can also let your customer do this. Make sure that you have a catalogue that clearly lists your products and services. Let your customer easily place an order, reservation or request and pick up products at their convenience.
A good copy is better than a bad original
We know what to expect in advance from both the restaurant and the furniture store. We choose them for their type of service and we are satisfied when they meet our expectations. Our expectations can be managed, though. Service providers love to show off their strong points, but they also mention what they believe is less important. Pay attention to the slogans of web shops, Internet providers, insurance companies and the government. They not only rouse your interest in their services, they direct your attention to their strong points. It is worth taking a closer look at this aspect of your competition.
Set out and start copying. Discover what you like or what bothers you as a customer. See how your own expectations are managed. Consider which concept suits your services and what slogan you should use. Healthy company espionage isn’t a bad thing. A good copy is better than a bad original.
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Nancy Van Elsacker is president of TOPdesk US, a division of the global provider of IT service management solutions and services.