How to implement a service culture throughout a company in order to ensure the customer is the center of a company's focus
For decades, companies have been trying to do the best they can for their customers.
Management systems and certificates dedicated to quality are tools companies have used to help organize themselves and understand how to serve, satisfy and earn the loyalty of their customers.
The focus has been primarily on a company’s processes or the various transverse organizational elements that help ensure the delivery of services to customers. This is where quality, as perceived by customers, has come to play a key role in satisfaction.
However, little effort has been made concerning the organization, content and ergonomics of service offers. For the past ten years, IT managers have worked to meet the demands of internal and external clients in light of growing expectations in terms of information systems. They have worked to implement Information Technology Infrastructure Library good practices and catalog all services provided to clients.
In addition to describing services, they have also worked to create a real service culture with their employees by introducing the idea of a service contract and Service Level Management. This enables service providers and clients to negotiate the level of quality expected in a contract. It therefore enables the industrialization of services.
The good news is that these good practices are now shared with all services, both IT and non-IT (the next ISO 20000 standard will speak of this). Information services are the technical link that facilitate and increase the performances of general services. In fact, you can say information systems are crucial component of services. For example, the Velib bike sharing concept was made possible by the integration of information systems for locating and securing bikes as well as systems to manage payment.
While there are many guides on good practices, and all of them encourage a variety of efficient and simple concepts to improve service, the weak link is still how we implement a true service culture.
For example, when you have to change the tires on your car, the real deciding factor will be the services offered with the purchase of a certain type of tire. We will not base our decision solely on buying a specific brand, instead services such as having our tires changed at home, being lent a car during the operation, or having tired-related mechanics checked might all influence our decision.
The service catalog therefore serves to clearly depict all the services and care a supplier has for his or her customer. As a result, we can state that the service catalog is the first step in the industrialization of services. However, many companies put the priority on developing their efficiency in organizational and managerial terms. The service catalog and having a client-oriented culture comes second. ISO 9001 certifications are an example of this mentality. Controllers are more focused on checking a company’s processes than checking the results they actually provide clients.
How can you create a service catalog?
There are seven key rules to follow.
1/ Use the customer’s language
The fact we do little to speak about the usefulness of our service offer underlines how little we are thinking about customers. We tend to focus on highlighting performance levels or the testimonial of a satisfied customer. But when you buy a service, it has to provide added value (save time, increase efficiency, etc.). Therefore a service catalog has to be designed with the help of clients who share their feedback and help us ensure that the language used actually speaks to them.
2/ Guarantee your promises
A service catalog must highlight what a customer receives in exchange for purchasing a service contract. It has to underline the commitment made by the company in terms of what and how a service is delivered, even under special circumstances. The conditions laid out have to summarize everything from the schedule, to various limitations, quotas, user advice, FAQ or manual. You have to clearly indicate if there are any restrictions in terms of the service being used or delivered.
3/ Segment and describe the services
There are four categories of services which can be split into two fields of use: Those that are visible by clients and those that are part of the back office.
3-1 Job services: Customers can see these services and they enable employees to achieve certain goals such as answer a customer request or respect quality levels.
3-2 Infrastructure services: These services are also visible because a customer/user can see how a company delivers a service in terms of quality and quantity (e.g. CRM-related services such as provided statistics related to an order).
3-3 Thematic services: These services call upon a variety of connected skills in areas such as logistics, training, reporting or performance in order to deliver a service. They are not necessarily visible.
3-4 Internal services: These are your typical back office services which cannot be seen by users/clients. They enable the company to guarantee quality levels by for example maintaining machines or software, and implementing IT services.
4/ The cost of service
When you are choosing a service, it is essential to remind the customer in a clear manner how much the service and its various options will cost. This has to be laid out clearly alongside the payment options and the possible penalties for both sides if the contract is not respected.
5/ Mention third-party actors
If a service relies on third-party partners, it is important to mention them and explain any quality controls that are set up. You can also offer optional quality control services if needed.
6/ A service’s target customers
A service might target various customer segments with various options.
7/ General information
You can provide various details and key figures such as quantity, performance levels, geographic situation, etc.
Once you have created a service catalog, you have a solid base on which to carry out negotiations with clients. This establishes trust and underlines your professional attitude. It is important to also spend time on a service catalog’s design and layout as it highlights your personality and unique characteristics. It can differentiate you from the rest.
A catalog’s goals are clear:
Provide clear explanations for the client to understand your capacities in terms of quality and quantity. Create trust through transparency.
Easily extract and highlight services within your offer that are relevant to a particular client and enable a true service strategy.
Implement service management by combining a service offer, its evolution and your company’s organization. Once service industrialization is implemented, you can open the doors to service innovation.