Service quality is one of the most important competitive factors in today's business landscape. Here’s how to make it excellent.
Defining excellent service is not a one-way street. It depends on how the customer experiences the service. That being said, one fact is without question; if the service quality is not sufficiently high, the service provider is likely to disappoint its customers regardless of their expectations.
Great service climate is a key to excellent service quality
The concept of service climate plays an important role in understanding how to deliver excellent service quality, as it captures what employees experience in terms of organizational practices regarding service delivery. It also influences employee motivation regarding service behavior.
If employees experience excellent service quality on the inside, they are more likely to be motivated to deliver excellent quality on the outside of the organisation. Thus a strong service climate leads to service quality.
In order to create a great service climate and deliver excellent service quality, these three key components need to be in place:
With a service strategy, the service provider can decide the service parameters, build the service value chain and design the internal service platform. The stronger each of these elements are - the better and more robust the service strategy will be.
Various studies have proven that an effective service delivery platform built on a solid service value chain concept greatly affects customer quality.
When managers ensure that service constantly is communicated as a strategic imperative, employees are likely to perceive service to be important. As a result, their behaviors towards customers are likely to reflect their orientation towards service excellence.
Research highlights that training, empowerment and rewards are the three most significant factors, which determine the level of performance and, in turn, lead to delivery of service strategy and excellent service quality.
Training of service employees has long been identified as the most important factor behind higher service quality. For years, studies have proved that there is a strong correlation between the number of employee training hours and the degree of service quality.
To make it a success, the employer should focus on more than the basic service-specific competencies. The main emphasis should rather be on training of service management and other soft skills such as social skills, attitude and language abilities.
This will enhance the overall capabilities of service employees and improve the overall performance of the service system.
Empowerment means providing employees with enough autonomy to allow them to handle unforeseen situations and challenges and let them be more self-sufficient in their work.
Empowerment has five dimensions:
- Meaning: the extent to which the employee experiences a task as personally meaningful
- Competence: the extent to which the individual feels confident about their ability to perform the task
- Self-determination: the degree of influence the individual has over how to perform the job
- Strategic autonomy: the degree of influence an individual has on the content of the job
- Impact: the degree of influence an individual has on their direct work environment
Empowerment motivates employees to greater service performance and creates a greater sense of accomplishment or satisfaction in their jobs by reducing dependency and encouraging teamwork.
Service employees should be properly rewarded for their work. The term reward should in this context be understood as a broad term referring to more than just monetary reward. Contrary to common perceptions, monetary rewards play a much smaller role in aligning performance with the service organization’s value and goals compared to non-monetary rewards. For both types of goals, it is of high importance that the goals are realistic and achievable and that the employee has been involved in the goal-setting process.
The intangible nature of services means that performance can be difficult to measure. Therefore employees must be trusted to monitor their own performance. Performance appraisals should include input from employees as well as customers and the appraisal results must be used in determining training needs.
As detailed above service quality is centered on the perception and experience of the customer. Hence, measuring and tracking customer results are ways to provide feedback to the service delivery chain and to increase the value of each customer relationship.
To make this successful it is of high importance that the service provider and the customer organization are aligned on the purpose, objective and goal of the service exchange.
If, for example, a customer organization aspires to become the world's greatest entertainment company, the service provider needs to ask: How can our company design a value proposition and our service delivery system to fulfill this customer vision?
If a customer would like the full benefit of an external service management provider, it is important to insist that the service provider both supports and understands the mission of the company. For this to happen the relationship must move from being input- or task-oriented to being collaborative.
Learn more about the creation of successful service deliveries. Read our blogpost: Four Key Elements of a Service Delivery System and download our White Paper: Service Management 3.0 - the next generation of service.