4: The Four Elements of Customer Service

The author reiterates that service is "manufactured on the spot, one customer at a time." In this moment of truth, four elements come together: the server, the boss, the customer, and the environment.

The Server

The server is a key element in the service experience. You can provide training, and you can set any policy you like - but in the moment of service, the server will make choices that will impact the customer experience, for better or for worse.

The author tells a few anecdotes about service situations in which the service provider did something unusual, or clearly above-and-beyond, that delighted a customer - and other instances in which the server clearly chose to do something that was less than impressive, and probably against store policy, out of disregard or even contempt for the customer.

The Boss

The author asserts that "great hiring trumps indifferent leadership." Most service industries provide minimal training, so hiring a person who is alert and attentive, with a positive attitude, will ensure that you have a person who will seek to do the right thing, even if they discover how to do it.

The author stresses the importance of service managers getting out on the floor rather than hiding in their offices, where they can coach and lead in real-time. It's generally better for morale to be among the workers, familiar to them. Also, employees will monitor (and emulate) the mood and attitude of the boss.

It's also noted that direct contact with customers is important. Customers like to get the attention of the owner/manager, more than that of the employees, and it generally gives them more of a human connection to the business, which improves loyalty. Also, if you are accessible to customers, and become familiar with them, you will get valuable feedback and suggestions directly from them.

The Customer

Customers have significant influence over the service they receive: a customer who is rude, obnoxious, fastidious, or abusive is going to get short shrift - the server doesn't like them, doesn't like being made to serve them, and aren't encouraged to provide a level of service that will bring this person back.

The author indicates he'll provide more detail on this later, but is including it for now as a significant factor, even if it's one you can't directly control.

The Environment

The author refers to environmental factors than can influence service.

A few anecdotes are used: a repairman who, in cold weather and having neither jacket nor gloves, rushes through a repair job. His experience trying to get ice water in Europe, where they take drinks at room temperature and just don't get the concept, ir even spicy food in the Midwest.

Influence of Factors

The author admits he doesn't know, and really hasn't looked into, exactly which of the elements is most important - and expects that the weight of the factors varies by situation. But even so, knowing what they are should give you a place to start when you're looking to solve a problem or improve service.