May/June  2001

tips for quality service

The Service Cycle

by Carl Tompkins


Having learned the true meaning of customer service (see last month’s AGRR), we now embark upon the key concept of research that will identify your customer service cycle.

To implement a customer service strategy, you must know and exceed customers’ needs at each point of contact they have with your company. Each contact point is referred to as “a moment of truth” because at each point or step that a customer takes in doing business with your organization, he or she will make a judgment as to how well you have met his or her needs. 

Examples of moments of truth in the customer service cycle might be advertising, sales, phones, location, facility appearance, greeting, quotations, installation, billing and follow-up.

It is critical that a company defines its complete customer service cycle and lists those moments of truth in order. Following the identification of a company’s customer service cycle, three questions must be asked and answered for each moment of truth on that cycle:

Compare these three questions and ratings to the school grades of F, C and A. If any moment of truth fails to meet the expectations of a customer, that customer awards a failing grade of F. The customer is dissatisfied and left in a negative mindset. If the customer’s expectations are met, they are satisfied but only grant the grade of C, meaning satisfactory. The customer is left in a neutral state of neither being dissatisfied or dazzled but, instead, satisfied because their expectations have been met. The grade of A is achieved by dazzling the customer within each moment of truth (i.e., providing more than what is expected and allowing the customer to become exceedingly satisfied).

Consider the following example. While working with the Hilton organization in Pittsburgh, one moment of truth within the department of housekeeping was the ice bucket. If there was no ice bucket in the room, the customer was dissatisfied and gave the Hilton an F. If the ice bucket was in the room the customer was satisfied and granted a C. If, however, the Hilton wanted to dazzle the customer and achieve an A, it would have the bucket in the room and filled with ice. The Hilton moved well ahead of the competition, most of whom think that having the bucket in the room is good enough.

While the ice bucket is only one of literally dozens of moments of truth for the hotel industry, the goal is to achieve as many A’s as possible while never earning an F on the entire customer service cycle. The more moments of truth receiving an A, the greater the separation between excellent customer service providers and average competitors.

Carl Tompkins is western states area manager for the Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich. 


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