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, July 23, 2010

A friend in need is a friend in deed.

Which services you use are equipped to handle emergencies? I mean, really handle them? Recognize the state you’re in. Empathize and understand what you’re going through. Act responsively & flexibly to deal with the emergency. Provide the assurance that everything will be alright and the reliability to make it happen.

I see customers in emergencies of varying degrees almost constantly. The signs are unmistakable. A customer enters a service moment of truth flustered, rushed, sometimes angry, in near panic and not thinking clearly at all. What customers want at that moment are the things that a customer wants in every interaction – empathy for their plight, responsiveness to the situation, assurance that they will be taken care of, and the reliability of a solved crisis.

What surprises me isn’t how often I see customers in emergencies, but the completely standard way they are treated by the companies they’ve reached out to for help.

Responding effectively in a customers’ time of greatest need is a strong loyalty builder as a creator of positive memories. It providesan execution-reference halo for a company’s standard-level service. Depending on the urgency behind the request and willingness to pay for a solution, emergency service experiences can also be a tremendous source of profit.

Yet most companies fit emergency customer experiences into their standard operations, using the same process and people to resolve an encounter with higher stakes, more urgency and more emotion than standard processes are designed for. Worse, I hear front-line service staff using policy as an excuse not to help when a simple act outside of the established rules would fix a problem without detriment to the company.

It’s worth considering development of a separate emergency process, perhaps staffed by emergency service employees with a different skill set, to deal with customers in emergency situations.

Maybe even consider turning effective emergency resolution into the main business line.

How about a plumber whose main business is responding to weekend & holiday emergencies? She doesn’t charge the double time other plumbers get for emergency services, but still gets a premium on what is for her the “standard business line”. Her business is configured to cater to the type of work her peers avoid, but for routine work, she schedules prudently around the days she’d like to take off.

Process and people are critical elements of the service encounter, and much thought obviously has to go into providing effective service to customers interaction after interaction.

But for emergency situations, examine closely whether the process and people you have performing it fit the emergency, or if your service wouldn’t be better suited with its own emergency response capability.

No comments: