Excellent service doesn’t have to cost more

20140212_104838I have seen discussions in social media about whether service providers should aim to deliver excellent service, or just deliver the service they have agreed to.

One side of the argument says that we have more choices than we used to, and that service providers must aim to delight all their customers or they won’t survive in a modern, consumer-oriented competitive environment.

Other people argue that organizations decide what to spend and what quality of service they want to deliver, and that a company can choose to compete on cost, or some other factor, rather than on service quality. A classic example of this is low cost airlines which often treat their customers very poorly when compared to traditional carriers, but are doing very well in a highly competitive market.

I think that there is a third alternative, and I came across an excellent example of this recently, when I dropped my mobile phone, cracking the glass screen.

My experience

I researched options for repairing the phone on the internet. I could buy a replacement glass screen quite cheaply, but replacing it looked difficult, requiring me to heat the phone to a fairly exact temperature that would soften the adhesive without damaging the electronics. I asked a local phone repair shop for a quote, but they told me the glass couldn’t be replaced and it would cost nearly £200 to replace the entire screen assembly. Eventually I found a company on the internet that would replace the glass for a reasonable fee. I paid online and posted the phone to them.

On the next day I watched the tracking information to see when the phone had been delivered. Much to my delight I received an email from the company within 30 minutes of the phone arriving, confirming that they had the phone, explaining what the next steps would be, and saying that 97% of repairs would be completed the same day – but also saying what the worst case would be. They then sent another email that evening confirming that the phone had been repaired and providing a tracking number so I could check on the return delivery. I received the repaired phone the next day, and they had done a good job of replacing the glass.

While the phone was being repaired I had moved my SIM to a spare phone. When I got the phone back it wouldn’t recognise the SIM. I remembered that it had been hard to remove the SIM in the first place, and I guess I must have damaged something. Oh dear. I phoned the company to ask if they could help and they put me through to a manager who talked me through examining the SIM card holder to see the bent pins. He then offered to replace the SIM card holder for a very low price, since I was already a customer!  I sent the phone back again and had a very similar experience. This time when the phone came back they also sent the faulty part taped to a business card, so I could see that they really had replaced it.

What can we learn from this?

There are a few things about these transactions that illustrate how to deliver excellent service without it needing to cost more.

  • The email that acknowledged receipt of the phone was a template email that will have taken an hour or two to write and could then be sent to thousands of customers. Cost: Negligible, Value to customer: Enormous, Delight factor: Considerable
  • They told me that they did not always repair things in one day. They explained some of the factors that could result in a slower service, and as a customer I was very happy that they had given me good information without just trying to show the positive. Another example of negligible cost with considerable value to the customer.
  • They did repair the phone in the agreed time for the agreed cost, and made sure that I could track the returned phone all the way to my house. I have had similar transactions in the past where they simply said they have posted the package, rather than providing me with the tracking information. Cost to them? Value to me? – I will let you provide the answers this time.
  • When I had a further problem they talked to me as an intelligent human being and helped me to see for myself where I had caused the damage.
  • They included the faulty part in the box, so I could see for myself that it really had been repaired.

In summary

It is possible to provide low cost services with good customer service. Nobody is saying you must provide expensive services to people that don’t want to pay for them, but every service provider should think about things they can do to delight customers without increasing costs. That is always the right choice.

In the world of IT and IT service management this means ensuring that all your staff adopt a customer mind-set, and constantly think about what they are doing and how this might impact the ability of customers to get value from your services – even if they are tied customers with no choice of service provider. It also means making sure you communicate with your customers well, and set their expectations appropriately. Tell them what you will deliver and then do what you’ve said. Every service provider should be able to do this, even if they are delivering low cost services.

Oh, and before I finish, if you live in the UK and break the screen on your mobile phone then I highly recommend the services of www.repairworlddirect.co.uk

4 thoughts on “Excellent service doesn’t have to cost more”

  1. Stuart, The Kano model provides a good framework for evaluating whether the effort put into changing a dimension of service is worthwhile or not.

    1. It does James, and it can be very useful.

      In a Twitter exchange with Majid Iqbal today we coined the hashtag #zci, for a zero cost improvement. There are often opportunities to improve services that actually cost nothing, and these should always be implemented.

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