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Customer service standards are *not* slipping – it's just that they want more than you can deliver

Field Service News recently published an article entitled “Are customer service standards in the UK slipping?”. Whilst the details of the particular research cited may be new, the thrust of the article is not. We have heard stories like this before, and all the time there is a ‘dissatisfaction gap’ they will continue to circulate. Likely meaning forever!

Customer service standards

Several years ago, I was at a meeting of one of the service industries trade groups and there was a presentation about service standards. The presenter asked the audience whether their service standards had improved over the previous 12 months. Most people raised their hands to signal “yes” and further probing put the rate of improvement in the 3-5% range. A second, similar, question about improvement over the previous five years got even more hands up. However, the presenter proceeded to tell everyone not to congratulate themselves as, in reality, they were failing.

Failing to deliver what their customers wanted. Not because they were, necessarily, bad at their jobs. Or, that their mobile teams were not working hard and maybe genuinely getting better. But, because their customers’ expectations were rising faster than their ability to deliver, the research at that time suggesting an annual increase in expectations more like 10%. So yes, the service providers were getting better – but not quickly enough. The incremental changes they were making, although necessary, were never going to close the gap – the situation would just get worse and worse, until all customers left! Possibly a bit over-dramatic, but you get the idea.

This idea of measuring the gaps between expected and experienced service quality is not new. Back in 1985, Parasuraman, Zeitham and Berry proposed the SERVQUAL, or 5-gaps model (see image above) as a way of understanding how and where things go wrong in a service organisation. It is a powerful way to visualise some of the problem areas that can set you up for failure even before you dispatch that technician. But it just goes to show how persistent this story is – it has been around for at least 30 years!

And that is a weakness in the Field Service News article, for me. It seems to accept ‘customer satisfaction’ as some kind of absolute value. When we know, in fact, that it is fluid and dynamic. And that places even more importance on tracking and understanding exactly what it is your customers are expecting, as well as how satisfied they are - not just once but continuously.

Here at Cognito, we understand the importance of measurement as a critical input to quality decision-making. In fact, so critical is it that we have built a whole approach to performance management on the basis on fine-grained measurement and super-powerful tools to collate and analyse massive sets of data to deliver actionable insights right to your desktop.

We believe it all starts with one number. And no, it’s not Net Promoter Score!

If you want to find out our secret, download our Executive Briefing on Performance Management and start closing that gap today.

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