by Hermann Kracke
A very basic thought but an indispensible one. 'Service' as in Service Provider derives from the Latin verb 'servire' and meant 'to be a servant to' or even 'to be a slave'.
The German word for service is "Dienstleistung", a compound of "Dienst" and "Leistung" (translated roughly 'provide a service') with the German verb being "dienen" or in English again: 'to be a servant'.
Uh, not sure I like where this is going...
But seriously, ever thought about it thoroughly? Because I am convinced the word origin in this case really leads the way.
Now I’m not saying that anybody should have a slave-like service mentality today. Also 'servant' is an expression no longer really in use in most western countries and so for good reasons.
'To be of service' not only does remain a polite phrase in present-day business correspondence, however - it also stands for a whole attitude - and a fundamental one if you ask me - for any service provider.
So 'be of service' - what does it mean?
Well, this sounds all very self-evident and agreeable. In fact, you will probably not find any company out there not claiming to be customer-friendly or service-oriented, including your own organization.
And today’s CEOs all know and understand well that nothing will motivate potential buyers as strongly to make a purchasing (or provider selection) decision as “Recommendations from people you know”. Am I right?
But what makes some service providers truly stand out then? How can you tell you and your people really strive to make your customer happy - day in, day out? What does really make a difference?
The secret ingredient
One of my clients is a small Indian service provider in the data management field.
They are sufficiently specialized but not particularly innovative.
They are experienced but not run by a team of Harvard graduated management executives.
They develop their business partnerships religiously but they do not have any powerful sales organization to speak of.
And yet they have been doing very decent business with a Fortune Global 500 company for more than 10 consecutive years now.
So what is it about them? It’s a secret I can share with you. They are a service provider with the right kind of service attitude, and it’s the one I have tried to lay out above.
Ok, let’s talk turkey
So what it particular can you do to establish a similarly remarkable service culture in your organization?
Little things that earn a business
Here is a list of 9 such observations I have made in the BPO space over the last years:
1. You deliver what you said you would the time you agreed but secretly you always try to beat that deadline. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t - but if it works it will make your customer feel special.
2. You answer every request you receive and be it just to tell them you have understood the issue and are searching for an adequate solution. A good motto: No interaction left behind.
3. When a project start comes up as communicated before but does not seem to get any real attention at your partner’s end or any other significant issue remains unaddressed (especially at times of summer vacation and around Christmas & New Year) you keep your to do lists updated and remind them about it.
4. If a deadline is approaching but the weekend is near you deliberately put in an extra hour or you offer to get the work done in a Saturday shift which usually not is an office day in Germany.
5. You listen to your customer and try to understand what regularly gives them a headache. It’s often not even related to a process or product solution but due to internal quarrels and organizational hiccups. You can then try to be extra supportive in those areas.
6. When you are addressed you take responsibility for the mistake - even if actually somebody else in your organization is to blame. You do not hide behind hierarchical structure of your company which should anyway be none of your customer’s business.
7. You operate more flexibly than your German partner and you are aware of this strength. When they cannot react as quickly as desirably you jump in and save them valuable time.
8. You are honest and straightforward about what you do. You try your best but you also admit when you get to the limit of what is possible for you. Do not make excuses or try to bullshit your way out of a situation.
9. When you notice something is going wrong - again also if not your immediate responsibility - you do not wait passively until things get really messy. You proactively try to help. Think how you can assist them limiting the damage.
Those are just some examples. No short cuts and many of my observations plain, hard work. But it’s I believe the simple truth how to provide really outstanding customer service.
"There just aren't any "cheat codes" for great service."
(Chris McCormick, president and CEO of then American retail company L.L. Bean)
Prepare to go the extra mile. Show your partner that you care. Being proactive even today still is a differentiator.