To achieve high customer satisfaction, the provision of excellent service quality is paramount. Yet, do you mind your service quality gaps?
We’ve said it so many times, and will say it again. To win the service excellence game, Facility Service professionals must be proactive in transforming their organization into one that embraces a true service mind-set by putting the end-user first and living the organization’s values.
This means actively working to identify where, when, and how to add value that leads to positive outcomes during all stages of interaction. It is in these moments that opportunities for real differentiation arise.
Understand the customer expectations
Understanding customer expectations is a prerequisite to knowing where and how to add value that leads to these positive outcomes.
As traditional service management research has for ages told us;
Service quality is a measure of how well the service level delivered matched customer expectations. Delivering quality service means conforming the customer expectations on a consistent basis. - Lewis and Booms 1983
Yet this is easier said than done and in the world of service – we see too often large gaps between the customer expectations and the actual service delivered.
The 5 service quality gaps
Why do these misalignments occur?
1. You may think you know your customers – but you don’t
The biggest mistake you can ever make is to think that you know the customer from the bottom and up. The reality is that you don’t. You may have many years of operational experience, hundreds of best practices – but you should never lose awareness of the ever-changing customer preferences, demographics, and ways of interacting with service. Investing in survey research, on-site observations, and focus-group interviews of various stakeholders within the customer organization is a key to understanding what customers expect versus what you can deliver.
2. You don’t have appropriate resources to manage customer expectations
One thing is to know the customer expectations, the other is to deliver on them. It is a recurring theme within the service industry that companies experience difficulties in attempting to match or exceed consumer expectations, even though they are well aware of them.
Resource constraints and market conditions are just some of the common reasons why companies fail to deliver the service that is expected.
The other, and more dangerous reason for a gap between expectations and the actual set of specifications established to occur is the lack of commitment to service quality.
One thing is to give a brand promise – the other is to act on it.
3. You may be dedicated – but your employees are not
You have all the right guidelines, all the right intentions but that customer of yours is still not happy. The issue may lie in a service expectation misalignment between you and your front- line employees.
If front-line employees aren’t on board with what is expected of them, how the service should be delivered, and if they are not motivated on delivering on your brand promise – then your intentions are of limited value.
4. You’re a great storyteller – but that’s the end of the story
Your marketing and communications teams are doing wonderful effort in promoting just how great your services are and how dedicated and not least competent your team of people are. That’s great. Just keep in mind that communication builds expectations. Knowing that expectations play a major role in customer perceptions of service quality, you need to make sure not to promise more than what you can deliver.
As much as a great promise can raise initial expectations – as much can it lower perceptions of quality when the promise is not fulfilled.
5. Your customers simply expected more of you
You sure know that the key to ensuring good service quality is meeting or exceeding what consumers expect from the service. So even if you are confident that the four previously described gaps aren’t a problem for you – you will never be able to influence the customer perception of the actual service performance in context of what they expected.
Even though you can influence the customer expectation and perception of the service delivered to a certain extent (communication, customer understanding) – the rest is highly subjective to the individual influenced by cultural background, family lifestyle, personality, demographics, advertising, experience, etc.
Naturally – the better you know your customer – the easier will it be to close the service gap.