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The How and Why of Doing More

In an increasingly competitive world, the difference in brand recognition and loyalty is founded on a simple concept. Here’s a look at the practice of creating Customer Delight

Transformation Program Expert

As someone who has been in the Transformation domain, delivering for many organisations in different business sectors, involving innovative technologies, people, processes and products, the changes that are requested, always stem from a desire of wanting to improve upon the existing setup, with an aim to either increase revenue, minimise waste, create a cutting-edge differentiator, or all of the above.

One factor that helped me in my successful deliveries has been to consistently maintain Service Excellence and Quality (which is a key component of Service Excellence), underpinning everything I conceptualise, plan and deliver.  This isn’t because I like to increase work for myself, this is to deliver something that I am proud of later. 

What Is Service Excellence?

There is a generally recognised definition of SE by academics, which says “Service Excellence is a concept that is applied when a customers’ expectations are exceeded and they are ‘delighted’ by the service they have perceived to have received” (Gouthier, Giese and Bartl, 2012).  There are many others, but this is the one that scores the most points!

That statement is huge, especially the “perceived to have received” bit, because how would you know how someone has perceived something. If this feels a bit confusing, don’t fret, I’ll explain that bit too!

This is also a principle supported by Peter Drucker, where he says, “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it; it is what the client or customer gets out of it.” So again, it’s how others perceive the output or experience.

A company in the UK called Ronseal, intentionally or unintentionally, took this principle and applied it brilliantly.  They had a suite of products for varnishing or staining wood. They needed a clever slogan that would explain what they do, also making it easily understandable to everyone. They came up with “it does exactly what is says on the Tin.”

This slogan became an instant hit, and it created a perception of a product and company that promoted openness, honesty and trust, that it did what it said it would do. In fact, people used this slogan to comment on products, services and people too!  e.g., “yes, I bought that new television, it does exactly what it says on the Tin.” This became the third most widely used slogan in the UK, and of course, sales and customer satisfaction shot through the roof.

The hardest expectations to plan for are those where the customer has no experience of the product or service

In fact, this slogan was so ingrained in the language, that David Cameron, the ex-PM of the UK, used it to describe the state of a coalition they had formed with another party, and it was used in a stop smoking ad, where they showed a packet of cigarettes with “Smoking Kills”, and “It does exactly what it says on the packet.”

This approach set customer expectations, and as long as it did what it said it did on the Tin, customers would experience “Customer Delight”, which is a key driver for Service Excellence. Obviously, setting customer expectations this way will not work for all products and services, but they managed to hit the sweet spot with this one!

The Alchemy of “Delight”

Disney, Rolls Royce, Ritz-Carlton and even some airlines, such as Singapore Airlines are some examples of organisations that have invested in creating systems to promote SE. Again, there are frameworks and tools to help you do this, for instance, Business Excellence Models (BEM’s) such as European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) or the Baldrige system for performance excellence (BCPE). However, a key dimension of SE is “Customer Delight”, and a lot of the BEMs don’t really address Customer Delight head on. Nothing is ever that straight forward, is it?

Customer Delight is when someone takes ‘delight’ in an exchange with a product and/or service. It seems so basic, almost boring, right? And yet, companies falter on this obvious parameter. It promotes Brand Loyalty, has people talking up the product or service, gives you a competitive edge and also allows you to make some mistakes without being judged too harshly (not that I would know anything about that!).

A framework to achieving Customer Delight is shown above (Characteristics of Service Excellence (Johnston, 2004)). 

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a whole universe unto itself; these are frameworks to create, manage and implement SE/Quality systems. Since this is a general overview, I can’t go deep into Total Quality Management (TQM) frameworks here, but you can search for TQM, as well as Quality Gurus, wherein you will find the strategies of people like Deming, Juran, Crosby, Feigenbaum and Ishikawa, people that have dedicated their lives to defining and putting in place frameworks of Quality and Excellence. Just to add to the confusion, they all have a somewhat different take on what Quality/SE is, but bear with me, there is some good news.

How Do I Manage A Customer’s ‘Perception’?”

Expectations are formed in many, various ways (unfortunately!), but the most common routes are public feedback aka word-of-mouth, Brand Image, Marketing and Communications, along with promises you make to your customers (such as “it does exactly what it says on the Tin.”). All this should emphasize that you think twice before saying ‘Yes, I can deliver this enterprise-wide transformation in 2 days and it will cost you a McDonalds Value meal’, or ‘Rub this on your head and in an hour, you will have a full head of hair!’ Because a false commitment will disappoint people, and your word will end up losing credibility. On the contrary, if you can do the above, then please contact me on the below email address!!

The hardest expectations to plan for are those where the customer has no experience of the product or service. These expectations are called “fuzzy”; hence the image, brand, marketing and word of mouth plays the greatest part in creating expectations. Take all this into account if you want to deliver Customer Delight, which in turn manifests SE.

As an example, here is a model for SE in the airline industry, although, the same principles and model could be applied to almost any business. (Refer to the diagram of Airline Customer Satisfaction model and Brand loyalty (Hussain, Nasser, and Hussain, 2015).

The Good News (Kind of)

Long story short, there is no “one size fits all” mantra to SE and Quality. When deciding on a framework or system to adopt, like Project Management principles, you can mix and match. What you adopt is dependent on the situation, the output, and the business domain, to name a few.

Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it; it is what the client or customer gets out of it

But you must keep in mind what expectations you are setting, what channels of communication you will use, not to mention people management. As people will be your ambassadors for delivery or management of the service or product, you have to plan people, teams, training, competency levels etc., into your system.  There is no point having an outstanding product or service, if it is not represented and managed in a competent manner.

This is a bittersweet good news because it forces you to take a holistic view of SE and Quality, and it compels you to factor people into your planning. This approach only leads to a better, sustainable and successful delivery. So, you will get more work, or sell more things. It’s a win-win!

In For The Long Haul

Building SE and Quality into your products and services leads to great gains over the long run. The way to execute it is by understanding what customer expectations might be, through surveys, questionnaires, branding, communications, marketing, word of mouth and other channels.

There are many frameworks and systems you can apply, TQM models are accessible, and Quality Gurus are plentiful; you just have to choose one or pick and mix the models, so that it is fit for purpose. You also have to factor in people to your planning, this is crucial as they will be a key component of all successful deliveries.

One element I haven’t covered, is measuring SE/Quality, because if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!  I will save that for the future, for Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is Service Excellence.

Adil Hosgor can be reached at [email protected]


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