Most businesses have their own issues and complexity which is why we need strong management on a daily and a strategic basis.
I have come to the conclusion, however, that no matter how complex your business is, if you can get functionality, applied knowledge and the touch points right all the time your success will be assured, and your notoriety grow. This is particularly true in service businesses and should be relatively easily and effectively achieved. Why therefore is it not so? Simply, in my view, because we don’t spend enough time focusing and driving these principles and, perhaps, it is as much a fundamental priority issue as it is a need to focus.
Let us examine “functionality”. At a very early quality conference (1980’s) I remember a learned university professor defining quality as “something that ensures a product does what it is meant to do” or put even simpler “that ensures a product or service works”. It strikes me as a simple well defined answer to a difficult question “what is quality”? It seemed even more brilliant at the time as 300 experts had been held up in Copenhagen searching for the Holy Grail. From that point on I have always thought that “Functionality” is a key to delivering quality and services.
Today it seems even more relevant because so many products and services disappoint unnecessarily. We see this in our everyday lives – Hotels that are difficult to sleep in, transport that doesn’t leave or arrive on time, luggage that gets lost and products that do not work or perform as intended. At the end of the day failure to ensure a product does not achieve the task it was intended for is unforgivable. In today’s competitive environment it will almost certainly lose a business market share, perhaps slowly at first and then probably disastrously. At that point the remedy, if indeed possible, is extremely expensive.
Functionality is important in a products basic D.N.A. and it is even more important in upgraded services and luxury products when consumers are paying premiums and their expectations are far higher. How can a business tolerate up priced rooms which are almost identical to base product, no leg room in business class, first class airline boarding that leaves clients on the tarmac for 10 minutes in sweltering climates and executive chauffeur services that can’t find an address and are late to pick up. All of these I have experienced recently and the client message is simple. Shape up or I will buy elsewhere. There are many details which companies need to get right in order to make a product functional and it is not my intention to cover them here. Suffice to say I don’t underestimate the maintenance function and focusing on the devil being in the detail. Essentially we must get the basics right and they include specific upgrades that we may be selling at additional premiums.
The importance of maintenance and up keep is a good point to start any discussion on applied knowledge. It isn’t really that surprising and a good example why a passion for quality is not just important for service staff but all staff. Maintenance crews like any other crew need to understand how, why and when their skills are needed to ensure customer satisfaction. The perfect most desirable Hotel whose shower doesn’t work or air conditioning is faulty can ruin a guest stay and assist in destroying brand promise and reputation. In the entire process of delivering guest experience there is a myriad of knowledge needed. That knowledge needs to be applied to delivering the guest experience by every member of staff and communication will play a big part in that process. How many service programs leave out back of house staff? They are in fact as important as any other crew member and should be treated as such. Knowledge is a prime and core tool and our teams possess it in abundance. It needs unleashing into our service delivery processes and applied to enhancing the customer experience. If this can be combined with encouraging our people to be themselves the result can be a very special form of customer service.
If the basics are right and our teams are applying their skills well “touch points” can often be the differentiator and a means of customer retention and improved market share. The first issue is to answer the question are you sufficiently defining the “touch points” in your business? To answer it properly in the affirmative you will need to define the critical moments of customer contact, have communicated it to your people and have set process and applied training and coaching to making it happen for your guests and teams. There are no half measures and if you are not on top of your game some competition will be. In many service businesses many touch points occur at check in, or where the client transacts the product. Others occur at common failure points or when the guest or client may become confused or lost. Whatever or wherever they are unique opportunities to gain an “intimacy” with your client and to keep a long term and loyal client who uses your product, not simply because its available, but because they like it.
The key platforms of functionality, applied knowledge and touch points can move your business into a new dimension and are featured in Braveagle service modules 1 and 2. With an appropriate social media strategy they can become the essence of your next marketing program. More about that in our next blog “the new Marketeers”.