Doing What It Says On The Tin
Doing what it says on the tin is a popular expression in the UK that means something performs as promised. It used to be that you bought a product and then implemented it. Changing to another product was often difficult and expensive and so you made very sure you had a good look before you leapt. Nowadays more and more of what we buy is delivered as a service, and as such we find it easier to implement and consequently switch it off if no longer required or not fit for purpose. It's great news for the customer but as a service provider you need to be very sure of your service value proposition and performance. The RATER model (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry) provides a useful framework to measure the gap between customer expectations and experience. It's a relatively old model but a great place to start when looking to make improvements to your service or product.
Gap 1: Do you properly understand what your customers want – or need for that matter? In the software business we spend a lot of time gathering information on the challenges faced by our customers. Challenges inform needs, needs inform wants – although with a lot of noise thrown in along the way. If you only hear the wants without understanding the real needs, you have little chance of meeting the challenges.
Gap 2: So you understand what your customers want. Have you correctly specified your service to meet their expectations? Make sure that your product and delivery team are in sync with your customer requirements. The details are key and vague specifications are very often the cause of customer dissatisfaction. Being on time is no good if you had the wrong time written down in your diary. Make sure you get the details right.
Gap 3: Perform a proper assessment of your product and/or service delivery team. No matter how good your intentions, if poor design or training affects your capacity to deliver then a service quality gap is bound to emerge. Don't let poor execution at the coal face undo all your good intentions. Customers will assess your service performance at the point of interface. Make sure you are delivering what you think you are.
Gap 4: Are you properly communicating the services you offer? All too often a disconnect between sales and marketing messages and the delivery arm of your business leads to an expectations gap. Make sure you are not your own worst enemy – setting unrealistic expectations is a sure way to miss service deliverables. It's not necessarily about over-promising. Miscommunicating your proposition can attract poorly qualified customers outside of your market sweet spot.
Gap 5: This is a key one to manage – the perceived gap in quality of service. Sometimes you are doing everything right but the customer perception is still negative. Bad press and negative word of mouth (check your Google alerts) can contribute but most often it's about feedback. Never assume that your customers are happy. Service provision is show and tell. Make sure you are communicating your value and telling customers about all the great things you are doing for them. If they still don't get it then maybe it's time to look again at gap 1.
Service provision is about attracting customers and then retaining them. Successful services are the ones that attract the right customers and meet their expectations. Ultimately it comes down to doing what it says on the tin.