Every business is a service business.

We apply the tools that make service businesses stronger through better strategy, innovation, marketing and day-to-day management.

Thank you for joining the conversation.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Compete Through Service Symposium: Guest Post by Sybil Stershic

Today's guest post comes from Sybil Stershic, author of the Quality Service Marketing blog and the tremendous book "Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most".  Sybil's business focus is on using internal marketing and communications to engage employees and positively impact employee satisfaction and customer retention.  I'd been following Sybil's work for awhile without knowing that we covered some of the same ground at Compete Through Service Symposium, and we were able to finally connect in person at last year's event. Unfortunately, Sybil is not attending this year, but she gave Service Encounters her thoughts on what she's missing.

With my entire career in services marketing, I consider The Center for Service Leadership’s Annual Compete Through Service Symposium to be THE best gathering of professionals who come together to share ideas, best practices, leading-edge research, and current and future issues in services marketing and management.

My professional passion is engaging employees and customers with internal marketing, and the Symposium is a meaningful source of insight on employee and customer focus, workplace culture, the customer experience and services leadership. In addition to services marketers and managers, the Symposium also attracts executives from product-oriented companies interested in becoming more service-oriented.

Although I haven’t been able to attend each Symposium, I’ve been following the program since its early days. Back then several staff members from the Center for Services Leadership and AVNET, a program sponsor, published follow-up summaries of conference ideas and takeaway questions for application. I’ve got several editions ranging from 1997 to 2005 in my office library … and still refer to them.

The good news is Symposium summaries from 2002 to 2006 can be downloaded online for free!

If you’re unable to get to this year’s program, I highly recommend you include it in your          professional development budget for next year.

I'll be blogging and live tweeting the 2011 Compete Through Service Sympsosium Wednesday through Friday of next week.  Follow me on Twitter to see more from this tremendous event.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The restaurant that never brings me what I order.

My wife & I frequent a sushi restaurant we’d both describe as our favorite. Having lives and travelled the Pacific Rim, it’s not the best sushi we’ve ever had – but for Kansas, it’s very good.

What makes us to choose their experience over competing experiences: since we’ve been going there, they have never brought us what we’ve ordered.

Sure, they take our order and bring us the appetizers, rolls, entrees and desserts we’ve asked for.

But as long as we’ve been going there, we have yet to have a meal that didn’t include an extra added in. Always free of charge, and usually something that isn’t on the menu that they bring over and ask us to try.

Some are terrific, while others are misses. (Japanese-Mexican fusion inspired tempura-battered green beans are a product innovation that should not have “left the garage”.)

Stan Phelps and the Purple Goldfish project call this lagniappe, associating the Cajun expression for giving a little extra to a great service business practice that delights customers. It is that – they give us more than we’ve asked for, exceeding both our expected and requested service experience – but it’s also more.

A few of the items that we’ve tried have ended up on the menu. We’ve had prolonged engagements with staff, talking about a dish and what might make it better. That they include us in new product development makes us feel like partners, invested in the success of their menu and their restaurant.

It took time – months, years – to develop a bond this deep. But consider the sushi joint down the street that instead of investing time & effort, offers up a frequent diners card to tie their customers to them. Their main business line has its margin voluntarily eroded by a program that doesn’t make a customer choose them any more or less than the other purchase frequency programs they use.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jimmy Johns: "Freaky Consistent" Brand Delivery.

Today's features a guest post from Sean Roark, a working marketing professional and graduate student in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at the University of Kansas.  This semester, students in Max Utsler’s “Innovations in Marketing Communications” class and Barrett Sydnor’s “Integrated Marketing Communications and Sales Strategy” class are writing blog posts on branding, marketing, social media, experience marketing, and innovation.

Sean's post on Jimmy John's consistent brand delivery through the service experience fits well with a Service Encounters theme of using marketing to consistently make the promise you deliver through the experience.  I also thank Sean for writing a post that gives me an excuse to post a picture of Krist Novoselic.  

"Freaky" Brand Delivery

My lunch hour had arrived and this blog had to be ready for you fine people in five hours. I needed something quick – not quick, fast. The usual suspects ran through my head. Wendy’s? No, too slow. Sonic? No, I don’t want to tip. McDonald’s? No, gross. I know! Jimmy John’s – “freaky fast.”

Frequenters of Jimmy John’s know “freaky fast.” It’s what makes Jimmy John’s what it is. Sure the “mama approved” sandwiches are delicious. The over-staffed and surprisingly friendly workforce is refreshing. The wall hangings are always good for a chuckle, that is, if you have enough time to read them. But it’s the “freaky fast” preparation and delivery of my sandwich that keeps me coming back every week. Today I walked in the door, placed my order, handed the clerk my credit card and received my receipt and freshly prepared sandwich at the same time. It was freaky --at least that’s what I used to think.
The Jimmy John’s brand should be a benchmark for all marketers. JJ’s understands their relevant difference -- Jimmy John’s is “freaky fast”, equal parts “freaky” and “fast”. However, the critical component to JJ’s benchability is that Jimmy John’s reinforces its brand promise throughout every customer touch point. There’s Ed, Jimmy’s “freaky fast” delivery guy. Don’t forget the JJ Freaker blog at, you guessed it, freakyfast.com. Even the napkins are freaky.
But all pale in comparison to the freakiest of them all -- Jimmy John himself. Jimmy John’s is now America’s second fastest growing restaurant chain, averaging one restaurant opening each day. Jimmy John Liautaud’s recipe for success is simple. Listen to your customers and outwork your competition. Simple but rarely duplicated.
Most companies say they listen. Some companies do. Few companies do anything worthwhile with what they hear. Jimmy John’s has delicious subs, but delicious subs alone don’t open a store a day. JJ’s customers told them they want more than just another delicious sandwich. They want a delicious sandwich with minimal line time. Jimmy’s delivered and pointed it out.
Jimmy’s has its shortcomings but so does every company. Jimmy John’s doesn’t try to be all things to all people. Jimmy John’s simply provides “freaky fast” quality sandwiches and entertains its customers for the short time they’re in the store.

I guess it’s working. Freaky huh?