Monday, June 28, 2010

Discover the five service 'gaps'

Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry introduced the SERVQUAL framework in 1985. It is essentially a process that describes five potential service gaps that organisations should minimise if they want to be known for consistently delivering service excellence. Minimising each gap contributes to an organisation’s capacity to meet or exceed the expectations of its customers.

The gaps are described below with an examples provided to help you to understand what each gap 'looks like'.

Gap 1 The Management Perception Gap
A gap can exist between managements understanding of customer expectations and the actual expectations of customers. If management get this wrong, everything else they do will be wrong and the service gap is likely to grow exponentially. Organisations must do everything in their power to minimise the chances that Gap 1 exists.

Example
Cocac Cola has dominated the soda drink market for decades. yet, in the early 1980s Coca-Cola decided to introduce 'New Coke' (some of you will remember, many of you won't.) The tatse for 'New Coke' was supposed to be a modern taste that the 'consumers wanted.' Nothing could have been further from the truth. Coke sales plummetted. Management had clearly misunderstood their market and had made a series of poor decisions as a result of their misunderstanding.

If you create Gap 1 then everything else you do as an organisation will take you further away from providing what your customers want. It is for this reason that Jack Welch, former CEO of GE said:

Quote
“Service. If you haven’t got it, don’t even bother getting out of bed if you want to be a senior leader. It’s such an entry level requirement it isn’t even worth talking about it.” (Jack Welch, ex GE CEO)

Gap 2 The Quality Service Standards Gap
It is one thing to be able to understand the expectations of those you serve. A gap can then emerge if your translation of those expectations into service standards is inaccurate. Service standards are effectively the systems and processes that you put into place to ensure that you can consistently meet the expectations of your customers. This is very easy to get wrong and requires a high understanding of the expectations of your customers, as well as a high level of understanding of how your organisations works if you are to minimise this gap.

Example
An example of Gap 2 in action is provided by a quote from a research participant. The person was a fitness centre manager. In this example, niotice how it connects to the concept of Structure Drives Behaviour.

Quote (Research participant)
The members said that they wanted the gymnasium to open at 6am. So I employed the staff to start their shift at 6am. The members were still not happy. I was confused. When I asked them again why they weren’t happy they said, “We told you that we wanted the gym open at 6am, not ‘opening’ at 6am. There’s a difference!” Finally I understood. The staff would be paid to start at 5:45am so that the gym would be truly open as had been requested. I had been wrong. I had misinterpreted the expectations of the members.

Gap 3 The Service Delivery Gap
After all the systems and processes have been created, both the automated and human elements of the system must do what they are supposed to do. System errors or breakdowns and humans not doing what they are supposed to do can create immediate service gaps. No system or human is perfect or infallible. As such your organisation must consider what it will do if a Service Delivery Gap does occur.

Example
A retail operation requires staff to work from a start time to a finish time. Usually there will be a staff member who is responsible for opening the retail outlet at a certain time. If that staff member is late then the retail outlet may not be open when customers expect it to be open. In this example, human error is responsible for creating a service gap.

Quote (Research participant)
Ultimately your staff have to do the right thing. It’s important to have the best systems and processes that you can, but ultimately your staff have to do the right thing. They have to properly implement what they are supposed to do.

Gap 4 The Market Communication Gap
If you say that you will respond to online customer feedback within 24 hours and you consistently take 48 hours to do it, then you have created a Market Communication Gap.

Example
The local barber who cuts my hair has two signs out the front of his barber’s shop. One sign says that the shop will be open at 8:30am. The second says 8:45am. The barber is rarely there before 9am. He has no idea how many people have looked in his window when he wasn’t open when he advertised that he would be. My expectations are consistently not met. One day a new barber will move into an empty shop in the shopping strip. What do you think I will do?

Quote
Sorry mate. I know that I said sorry the last couple of times but my car broke down and I had to wait for my wife. Sorry mate.

Gap 5 The Perceived Service Quality Gap
The final gap is the perceived service quality that the customer has of their total experience in relation to their original expectation of the product or service. Ideally there is no gap here or, if there is a gap, it is in the context that the perceived service level is higher than original expectations. Unfortunately, the four previous gaps can create a significant negative gap at Gap 5.

Examples
I describe this gap like this because service providers are often unaware that this gap exists. As such they don't do anything to close this gap. This leaves them exposed to a competitior or new service provider from appearing to 'steal' their customers 'overnight'. The reality is that their customers were simply waiting for a better alternative to 'pop up', so when it did they 'defected' as quickly as they could. Do you think my barber (Gap 4 above) is at risk of this occuring?

A similar gap can exist for internal service providers. I am aware of teams of internal staff who have failed to provide high service standards to others within their organisation. When their service has been 'outsourced' those staff and team members have become indignant. "How dare they outsource our department!". Yet they had not been prepared to 'see' other staff as their 'customers' and treat them accordingly.

Quote (Research participant)
You know they don’t really have to do all that much. If they just met my expectations I’d be happy. But they really don’t seem to care. And as soon as I get a chance to go somewhere else I will. And they won’t even know what happened to me. It’s a shame, really. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Your challenge is to be aware of these five gaps and to be pro-active in managing them. This is a never-ending activity because customer expectations can change 'overnight'.

Please share your experiences with relation to how you have managed the five service gaps.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Powerful questions for mentors

Mentoring is experiencing a resurgence as more and more people are recognising its benefits, from both mentor and protege perspectives.

Recently I facilitated a mentoring workshop for one of Australia's largest universities. Part of the workshop included a Strategic Conversation. The purpose of which was to generate some resources for the 60 mentors present.

One of the most powerful resources for a mentor is to be able to access questions that can be used within a mentoring session. In this context, the Strategic Conversation that I hosted included the following question:

"As mentors or proteges, the most powerful and effective questions that we have asked or have been asked are...?".

I have received permission to be able to share the output of the Strategic Conversation with you. Please click here to download the file.

I would like to be able to continually add to this list. In this context, please share the most powerful questions that you have been asked or have asked in the context of a mentoring relationship.

PS My first book What Really Matters For Young Professionals! is due for release on July 30th, 2010. In this context I have a pre-release Special Offer available. Over my journey a number of mentors provided me with books as gifts to assist me with my development. If you are a mentor then this may be the perfect gift for your proteges, especially if they are in the first ten years of their career. You might like to consider an even more powerful gift which is the Online Course that supports the book.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dr Andrew O'Brien Interviews author Gary Ryan

Interviewed by Dr Andrew O'Brien, Gary Ryan, author of the new book What Really Matters For Young Professionals!, shares insights on each of the 15 practices featured in the book. This interview includes practical tips to enable you to accelerate your career.

Find out more information about the book at www.orsgthatmatter.com/WRMFYPBook

How '5 Stars' and '2 Stars' can both provide examples of great service, or not!

Many people think that good service is only provided ‘at the top end’ of the service star scale. In other words, if I’m running a 2 star motel then only a low level of service should be provided. In the context of WHAT is provided and WHAT is paid, this is true. But the service experience can still be above expectations. For example, the person greeting me may be genuinely happy to check me into my room. When provided directions to my room I am asked if I am interested in knowing where some cheap but good quality food can be found. In responding yes to that question I am provided with the appropriate information, which includes a range of discounts should I choose to eat at those places. (Later, when I do choose to eat at the place, my discount is honoured and the food is reasonable for what I have paid for it).

I go to my room, the key works and my room is fresh and clean. I have asked for a non-smoking room and there is no evidence that the last person who used it smoked like a chimney. The information booklet is up to date and includes relevant information about public transport, taxis, health clubs and eateries. When I check out the staff member is courteous, quickly processes my payment and bids me farewell. If you wish to consider a poor ‘2 Star’ experience, simply go back over this story and reverse each experience that has been described.

It would not be very difficult to translate this ‘2 Star’ story into a ‘5 Star’ story. The differences in the experience will relate to what we have paid and what we then expect to receive in return. The room may be bigger. The location may be more convenient. The bed may be bigger with higher quality linen. Internet access may be available. The fixtures and fittings may be of higher quality. An on-site restaurant and 24 hour in room service may be available. Laundry services may be available and a concierge service may be available to assist us with any needs or enquiries that we may have regarding the hotel of surrounding area.

Each ‘Moment of Truth’ (MoM) can contribute to our expectations not being met if the experience of the MoM is not up to our expectations. In this way, 2 Star service can be great service and 5 Star service can be poor service. It all depends on the perceived experience of the customer.

Quote
“Visits are not limited to the public areas. I head for the heart of the house, too. There’s method to my madness. If I see smiling faces and well-scrubbed surfaces behind the scenes, I know that the rest of the hotel more than likely is doing just fine.” (J.W.Marriott Jr from his book, ‘The Spirit to Serve’)

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How the power of team talk can help the Australian Socceroos

Major international sporting events like the World Cup create a terrific opportunity to focus on the elements that enable high performance. These elements are applicable not only to elite and social sport, but also organisational teams.

Specifically the Australian Socceroos Round One loss to Germany by a record breaking four goals to nil score line highlights the power of team talk. The Australian media have gone into a frenzy debating whether this current Socceroos team has what it takes to create success at the World Cup. Success, in the media's eyes and re-enforced by the Australian Socceroos themselves is reaching the competitions quarterfinals.

Imagine the possible team talk in the Socceroos change rooms regarding next Monday's game against Ghana. "If we lose this game it is all over. Our World Cup Campaign will be finished. Our reputations will be equal to mud if we get thrashed again."

Such team talk creates a focus on the outcome rather than the moment, and also creates a strong and vivid image of failure. Humans have a remarkable capacity to focus on what they don't want and then go ahead and create it. When I ride my motorbike I have to be aware of the truck that is coming toward me. But if I focus on the truck I will ride my motorbike straight into the truck (the same is true for bicycles - you travel where you look). Clearly I don't want to ride my motorcycle into a truck, so I have to become disciplined at focussing on where I do want to go, while being aware of the truck at the same time.

The same is true for teams and team talk. Your team talk reflects what you are focussing on. As the image highlights, team talk leads to team image which then affects performance. Negative team talk leads to a negative team image which, like a magnet, draws the team's performance in that direction. Of course the performance then re-enforces that the team talk was accurate and a vicious cycle is created.

Team talk by itself does not guarantee success. Nothing does. But positive team talk that focuses on what the team can control, such as its systems and processes when balanced with the right work or training increases the chances that success will be achieved. When negative team talk is present it significantly increases the probablility that failure will occur.

In this context teams must focus on what they can control and the team talk that relates to success. If the Australian Socceroos are to achieve the success they desire then focussing on their team talk is a powerful approach to adopt.

I believe Henry Ford was right when he said, "If you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right either way!".

What is the team talk present in your teams? Is it positive? Is it negative? Is it focussed on what you can control?

Please feel free to comment on this article.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Do you listen '...with your answer running'?

Last night I was facilitating a workshop for mentors for Monash University, Australia's largest university. Throughout the workshop the participants had been holding a conversation regarding the importance of listening. One participant suggested that if you listen, "...while your answer is running in your head, then you are not listening at all."

I had never heard this description for not listening and it struck me a s a clear example of what really does go on when people are supposed to be listening.

Often people are simply waiting for the other person to stop speaking so that they can 'take their turn' and now say what they have been preparing to say. Recently I facilitated a development half day for an executive team and one of the activities that I facilitated was called Turning Points. In that activity participants share significant events in their lives that, if they had not occurred the person believes that they would not be in the physical room on that day; they would be somewhere else in the world because their life would have travelled a different path.

Due to the personal nature of the stories I ask the participants to, "Do whatever it takes to listen with one hundred percent attention". After people have shared their stories we then talk about the quality of listening that was occurring throughout the conversation.

Participants commonly report that they couldn't believe how much they 'heard'. When asked why they heard so much, the regular reply is, "I wanted to hear what they had to say. I wanted to give them my full attention. I didn't have any opinions about what they were saying so it made it easier to listen".

I then ask team members if the quality of listening that they just experienced is regularly present in their team meetings. "Rarely, if ever" is the normal response.

Listening is regularly listed as one of the most important characteristics of effective leaders. So how do you listen with 100 percent attention when you do have an opinion about what the other person is saying?

A couple of techniques to consider are to consciously make the choice to listen to someone. You might even say to yourself, "I am going to listen to this person with one hundred percent attention." Choosing to listen to someone from the perspective of trying to understand fully what they are saying is a powerful way to enhance your listening. It re-enforces that your own opinion is not worth saying of even fully formulating until you have understood the other person to the best of your ability.

Statements such as, "What I think you just said was..." are ways of checking your understanding.

Listening is not easy. In fact my view is that it is the most difficult of all the skills of effective leadership. yet it is also a critical skill to master. So it is worth making the effort to:
  1. Make the conscious choice to listen; and
  2. Listen first to understand.

What practical tactics to you use to enhance the quality of your listening, particularly when you are in team meetings and you do have strong views about the topic?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Service excellence involves exceeding expectations

People expect good service. Period. Often, their expectations are not met. Too often. Just think about your own experiences as a customer. How often are your expectations met? How often are they exceeded? Customers expect their expectations to be met. You expect your pay to arrive when it is due. You expect your food to be delivered as ordered within a reasonable timeframe and at the appropriate temperature when you order food at a restaurant or cafe. You expect finance reports to be delivered and inclusive of all appropriate information as scheduled. You expect to be treated as a human being when you visit a government agency, education institution or medical facility.

In order to be able to consistently meet expectations, your organisation must aim to exceed expectations. It is likely that there will nearly always be a lag between when you last checked the expectations of those you serve and the actual service that you are providing them. The lag time may include a change in the level of expectations of those you serve. Unless you are aiming to exceed the expectations at the level that you understand them to be, you may not achieve a consistent level of meeting the expectations that you do know exist. This never-ending journey means that exceeding expectations is a challenge. A real challenge. A challenge worthy of your commitment. Is your organisation currently worthy of your commitment? Is your performance worthy of your organisation's commitment to you?

Quote
“Consistently exceeding the expectations of the customer, personalizing his or her service experience, and continuously improving your product or service so that it creates greater value for the customer produces a level of customer loyalty that cannot be matched by your competitor.”
(Theo Gilbert-Jamison, service excellence expert/author)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Being told "You're crazy!" is a good thing!

Have you ever been told that you are crazy for doing what you are doing?

I have. Plenty of times. In fact I've had it said to me so many times now I see it as a good thing!

I recall when I first decided to enrol in a post-graduate university program as a part time student, people said, "You're crazy!".

When I decided to become the senior coach of a local football team, people said, "You're crazy!".

When I decided to study part time at the masters level at university, people said, "You're crazy!".

When I decided to form my own business with my business partner, people said, "You're crazy!".

When I decided to run my first marathon, people said, "You're crazy!".

When I decided to write my first book, people said, "You're crazy!".

When I decided to write an ebook and give it away for free, people said, "You're crazy!".

When Michelle and I announced that we had our fifth child on the way, people said, "You're definitely crazy!!".

When I decided to run a marathon four weeks after having had my appendix removed, yes, you got it, people said, "You're crazy!".

This list could go on and on. But it wouldn't be fair to keep going because I think you understand the message.

I don't know why people say that you are crazy when you tell them that you are doing something that they can't see themselves doing, even if they really wanted to do it.

I do know that I have enough evidence to see that statement as a positive. In fact, if people weren't telling me that I'm crazy then I suspect that I wouldn't be striving hard enough to create the life that I desire.

You see the only reason that I have done all of the things listed above is that each of those little achievements contribute to me living the life that I desire.

As a simple example the reason why I run marathons is so that I can be healthy and fit for my family. Also I am so busy that if I did not have something as big as a marathon to train for, I might not do any training. It is the very fact that a marathon is what it is that makes me prioritise the time to train. But again my real reason is even bigger than that. I want to be an example of health and fitness for my children, so that I can physically do whatever I want to do with and/or for them.

My eldest son plays both Under 10 and Under 11 Australian Rules Football for our local club. Recently the umpire did not arrive for the start of the U11 game. Fathers were approached to pick up the whistle. They declined. "I can't do it, I'm not fit enough." is what I heard them say. I even overheard one father say, "Someone else will do it".

I raised my hand. "I'll do it."

The simple mathematics of the situation was that if someone did not step up to umpire, the game would not happen and the children, including my son, would miss out on a game of football. That's not an outcome that I want.

I knew that I was fit enough to do it and I also felt confident enough that I knew enough rules to do a reasonable job.

After the game my son thanked me as did many of the other children and their parents. Again, many of them said, "Thankfully you raised your hand because I could never have done that. I'm not fit enough."

For me, for as much as I can control I never want the statement, "I couldn't do that because I 'm not fit enough" to come out of my mouth and stop me from helping out my children. Michelle and I also talk a lot with our children about the importance of showing initiative. Well, I can't just talk about it, I have to show it too!

I never got up that morning expecting to umpire a game of football. Wearing a shirt, jumper and jeans I was clearly not dressed to umpire. But I didn't let that stop me either. Who cares if people laughed at how I was dressed or looked or if they thought I was crazy! The important thing was that I was out there having a crack and helping the boys have a game of football.

I can't even begin to tell you the benefits of having completed each of my post-graduate degrees. Once again  the important outcome has been that I have been able to live more of the life that I (and my family) desire.

I'm not sharing this story because I want accolades. Rather I am sharing it because it is an example of the benefit of taking the time to work on my health and fitness. You never know when opportunities like the one I have described above can pop up, and personally I want to be able to seize them. It is part of the future that I desire and an example of living out my purpose for being healthy and fit.

So, what are your examples of when people have told you that you are crazy?

What have been the benefits of not listening to those people?

Please share your examples with us.