In today’s market, competence is not enough. In order to attract and retain profitable customers freelancers must ensure that they provide them with a full range of value adding services targeted to their needs and resulting in solutions to their concerns and problems.

Both manufacturing and service organisations are utilising value adding services as a source of differentiation and competitive advantage.

There are five principal considerations used by customers to judge whether a business is providing excellent service

  • Reliability - the ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately.
  • Assurance - the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence.
  • Tangibles - the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials.
  • Empathy - the provision of caring, individualised attention to each customer.
  • Responsiveness - the willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.

Many organisations who examine the question of service quality do so after the event. Frequently this is too late because the customers' perception is that they have not received good service and they may not return.

Managing service delivery requires a holistic approach. The management of customer and staff operations is an essential element in ensuring a balanced operation. The service delivery system requires appropriate design and continual management.

  • The service triangle – is a simple model for an organisation that aspires to provide service excellence. It was proposed by Albrecht and Zemke in their book Service America.
  • Service strategy - The foundation of a successful service operation is a well defined service strategy that directs the attention of the people in the organisation to the real priorities of its customers. The strategy should be a non-trivial statement of intent, must make a noticeable difference and must be deliverable. The service strategy should be uppermost in the mind of all the staff in the organisation and all the activities in the organisation should be directed to fulfilling the strategy.
  • Systems - The systems by which the products and services of the company are delivered to the customer must be designed for the convenience of the customers but at the same time should be easy to use for the employees. They should be self-correcting and invisible to the customer.
  • People - The people who are in direct contact with the customer are the most visible part of the model. They must be responsive, attentive and willing to help the customer in any way. They should be empowered to work on the behalf of the customers and the function of all those who are not in direct contact with the customers should be to support them.

Service standards

The best service providers set high standards for service quality. Service standards can be defined as the internal benchmarks by which the quality of service provided to the customer are measured and monitored. The following criteria should be considered in setting and using service standards:

  • They should be specific and measurable.
  • They should be related to the results of research showing qualifying and order-winning criteria appropriate to the market sector.
  • They should be limited to no more than 12 standards.
  • Feedback to staff on performance against standards should be rapid and relevant.
  • Feedback should be communicated attractively (e.g. league table).
  • Comparison should be made with better competitors.
  • Measurement should be made frequently and supported with qualitative research.

This content is an extract from the Service Excellence Learning Guide.