Monday, August 17, 2009

How to Achieve Consistent Quality and Service Throughout Your Company

Every business person should know the key to success in any business is to create loyal customers. Customer loyalty occurs when your customers have unquestionable trust and confidence that the quality of your products and the delivery of your services will be consistently satisfying each and every time they patronize your business. When customers know they will have a good experience in every transaction with your company they will do business with you again and again.

You need to realize that your customers want to do business with you. If they didn’t, they probably would go somewhere else. Consequently, all you have to do to be successful and ensure long-term customer loyalty is to please the customers when they patronize your business.

The process for building customer loyal starts from the first transaction a customer undertakes with your company. Whenever a customer patronizes your business for the first time she is taking a risk. She doesn’t know whether your products or services will be good or not. She hopes your delivery will be good, but she hasn’t yet developed the trust and confidence that this is so. If the customers’ requirements are met satisfactorily on that first visit, more than likely she will patronize your business again. However, if her needs are not met, she probably won’t give you a second chance.

Successful companies know the key to success is to please the customers in such a way they have no desire to take their business elsewhere. Loyal customers have no second choice for where they want to do business. They are loyal to one company because they know they will have a satisfying experience with that company each and every time they buy their products or use their services.

Therefore, the key to repeat business is to do what you do extremely well and always be consistent in both what you offer and how you deliver it. The strength of your customers’ loyalty is in direct proportion to the confidence they feel regarding how well you consistently meet their needs and expectations each and every time they do business with you.

McDonald’s hamburger restaurants guarantee repeat business to the company’s franchises by making sure a Big Mac tastes the same every time, regardless of which outlet a customer visits, when they visit, or who is preparing their meal. Consistency is the key to McDonald’s success.

The way to achieve consistent quality and service throughout your company is to follow a blueprint I created several years ago called THE CONSISTENT SERVICE MODEL®.

Consistency starts with gaining a firm understanding of what your customers expect when they patronize your business. It begins by pinpointing the “products” or “services” your customers actually want to buy and the intrinsic reason(s) why they buy them. Consistent service delivery revolves around having a clear view of your products and services from your customers’ perspective. It entails knowing their true needs, wants, expectations and requirements.

The first step, therefore, in consistent delivery is to clearly identify what you are really “selling.” Since a company normally sells a product, I call the first step in the Consistent Service Model the development of a Product Description.

A product description describes what “products” your customers actually want to buy. It states why your business “exists” from the customers’ point of view. The clear articulation of your product description helps you develop and deliver your products and services to the customers’ requirements as they perceive their requirements, not to some standard or specification that you or your company may arbitrarily establish. The key to success in business is giving your customers what they want, the way they want it. If your company fails to deliver your products or services to your customers at the level they expect, you soon may find your enterprise going out of existence as your customers defect to competitors who are giving them what they want.

The best way to determine your customers’ expectations is to identify the “implied promises” behind every product and service transaction. Customers want more than the products they buy or the services they utilize. They want consistent delivery on the implied promises that come with those products and services. You are selling more than just the physical elements of your products and services. There are attributes or qualities about those products and services that are inherent in the transaction itself.

For example, customers who patronize a fast food restaurant want fast food. Fast food restaurants that don’t get the food out fast irritate their customers and usually cause them to take their business elsewhere.

Patrons of fast food restaurants also expect their fast food to be hot and fresh. So getting the food out fast precludes cooking it so far in advance that the food’s hot and fresh qualities might be negatively affected.

In addition to wanting fast, hot and fresh food from a fast food restaurant, the customers also expect their order to be filled accurately. Fast food restaurants who deliver a quality food product fast, hot, fresh and accurately will have a significant competitive advantage over restaurants who don’t meet these customer requirements.

Similarly, a person who buys a power tool wants it to work – they want it to be reliable. They also expect it to work for a long time. In other words, they want the tool to be durable. They also want the tool to be easy to use and to perform the functions it is designed to perform at the level promised. Finally, since it is a power tool, they expect the tool to be safe.

Tool manufacturers who produce safe, durable, reliable, efficient and easy to use power tools that perform the functions they are designed to perform at the level promised will win in the market over competing manufacturers who fail to deliver on these implied promises.

One last example shows there are implied promises in every element of life, including one’s personal life. Every person on this earth is selling something. The “product” a person may be selling is oneself.

When a job candidate goes to a job interview, the candidate who does best in the interview is the one who realizes he is the product. The key to getting hired is showing that one is capable of delivering on the implied promises that the hiring company is looking for in an employee. If the job candidate does not “sell” himself well, his services are not “bought” by the hiring company.

Likewise, the best food servers know they are selling much more than just the food their restaurant offers. The most successful food servers – meaning those who usually reap the largest tips – are those who view themselves as part of the overall package. They take just as much care in how they present themselves as they do in presenting the food.

As can be seen by the examples above, consistent delivery on the implied promises is what customers want to buy. They want predictability when they patronize your business. Nothing infuriates customers more than to think they are buying one thing – hot, fresh, fast, accurate food – only to discover too late they are getting something else.

The best product descriptions are those that clearly identify what a company is selling. This isn’t always as obvious as it may seem. Many hotel owners, for example, think they are selling rooms. Consequently, they build as many rooms as possible by having thinner walls between the rooms. They then try to create a high profit margin by filling their thin-walled rooms with a high volume of guests.

But the best hotels – the ones that create the greatest customer loyalty – are the hotels who realize the product they are actually selling is a good night’s sleep. Hotels who sell sleep design their facility to ensure nothing disrupts their customers’ sleep. Thin walls mean noise, and noise means less sleep. Hotel guests who can’t sleep usually do not repeat the experience. They go to a hotel that recognizes what the customer really wants is to sleep. Hotels who sell sleep consistently out perform those who just sell rooms.

Every job classification in your company needs a Product Description because every employee in every position in the company is selling something. Every employee has customers – either external or internal – who “buy” that person’s products or services. Their customers either buy what the employee is selling or they don’t. If the employee’s customers are not satisfied with the quality of the employee’s products or the delivery of their service, the customers prefer to go to someone else who can give them what they want. And if too many customers defect, the employee may soon find their job no longer exists as they are replaced by someone who can deliver what the customers want.

Customers generally tend to gravitate to those service providers who best meet their needs. When one employee is reliable and another employee is not, the customers tend to channel all of their interactions toward the reliable employee. Consequently, the unreliable employee ends up with little or no work. Eventually workers who have no work tend to lose their job.

Let me give you some additional examples to help you better assess what you might be selling.

A potwasher in a restaurant sells clean, sterile pots that are free of crusty food, grease and grime. The chefs and cooks – who are the potwasher’s customer – either buy the pots from the potwasher or they don’t. Any pots not cleaned to the chef’s satisfaction are returned to the potwasher until he meets the chef’s requirements. Additionally, the potwasher must place the pots where the chef wants them, not wherever the potwasher wishes. The potwasher must also be cheerful when he washes the pots no matter how many times the cooks dirty the pots. If the potwasher continues to fail to clean the pots to the chef’s satisfaction, the potwasher may soon find he is no longer employed as a potwasher.

The Accounting Department in a company also is selling a product. Accountants sell fast, accurate financial information from which to make sound business decisions. A PBX phone operator is selling information and routed calls that are provided in a fast, accurate, friendly and courteous manner. Customers who take their cars to a dealership for repairs hope the mechanics can quickly and accurately diagnose and fix the car’s maintenance problem at the lowest possible cost.

Each of these examples shows what the customers really want to buy. If the “product” is not delivered the way the customers want, hey will buy these services from someone who can deliver on the implied promises.

Determining true customer expectations requires you to look beyond the obvious to the intangibles that are desired. In addition to wanting a room wherein they can sleep, hotel customers want a room that is clean, safe, quiet, and comfortable room where everything works properly so they can sleep through the night. Hotels who fail to consistently provide all five components when selling their rooms may soon find themselves short of customers as customers migrate to competing hotels who consistently meet their requirements.

A product description is a succinct statement of the core customer requirements, or the basic “promises,” you must successfully and effectively deliver every time. Far too many companies fail to get the basics right. Those who continue to fail at the basics may find the very existence of their business threatened.

Once you know what products your customers really want in order to be fully satisfied with your products and services, the second step in the Consistent Service Model is to “guarantee” you will deliver what they want every time they do business with you.

Service Guarantees are clearly identified and articulated internal measurements that a person must consistently achieve to meet the customers’ expectations. They are the measurable standards you set to ensure your employees deliver a consistent product each and every time. They show whether your employees are winning or losing from the customer’s perspective. Service guarantees are the scorecard indicating success or failure.

Service guarantees quantify your product description. They show how you will ensure, or guarantee, you will delivery on the implied promises each and every time a customer patronizes your business.

Service guarantees typically are determined from your product description. For example, the service guarantees hotel customers want are relatively clear. Hotel patrons want a clean, safe, quiet, comfortable, and fully-functional room. They want these five implied promises all of the time. If the room is not clean even once, or the room is robbed once, or the lights don’t work one time; the customers will lose confidence in the hotel. They will seek competitors who they feel better “guarantee” the cleanliness, safety, quietness, comfort, and functionality they require in their room.

Service Guarantees are not published guarantees you advertise to your customers (although you could advertise them if you feel your service guarantees offer a competitive advantage). Rather, service guarantees are measurable standards to which your employees hold themselves accountable in order to satisfy your customers. They are the means to communicate the things that matter most to your employees. They are what every employee must consciously strive to achieve in their position every moment of their workday. In short, the service guarantees are why the employees exist. The way employees guarantee their existence is to deliver on the implied promises of the product description and service guarantees all of the time.

The next step in the Consistent Service Model is the way to ensure every employee delivers on the promises as stated in the guarantees.

Anyone who has stayed in the same hotel room for several days in a row probably has experienced inconsistent cleanliness in their room. Some days the room just seems to be cleaner than others. This usually occurs because a different person cleaned the room. The new person had a different way of doing it. They did it their own way, resulting in inconsistent service.

Customers usually don’t care who cleans their room or who provides the service; they just want the experience to be the same every time. No one wants to go to a restaurant and has to ask who the cook is that day in order to know how to order their steak cooked. They want rare, medium, and well-done to be the same each time they patronize the restaurant regardless of who is behind the grill.

The only way you can “guarantee” that your products and services will be the same for your customers each and every time is to ensure all of your employees maintain the same Standards, abide by the same Policies and Procedures, and use the same Processes, Practices and Systems so they perform their jobs at the same desired level. If one housekeeper uses one procedure or process to clean the hotel room, and another has a different procedure or process, the room may be cleaned inconsistently. Standards, policies, procedures, processes, practices and systems are the means for replicating the specific performance and experience expected by your customers. If employees fail to follow those guidelines, you cannot ensure (guarantee) the results will be consistent. Therefore, strict enforcement of the defined standards, policies, procedures, processes, practices and systems is the key to consistent service.

Once you know the standards, policies, procedures, processes, practices and systems needed to deliver on the implied promises, the next step is to train your staff to faithfully abide by them. The most effective Training is training that is targeted specifically to instruct employees on the standards, policies, procedures, processes, practices and systems necessary to guarantee their existence. The only training that has real, lasting value is that which is linked to the employees’ product description, service guarantees, and the tasks they must carry out to meet the customers’ specific requirements.

Companies should focus their training around why the employees’ job classification exists (product description) and what they must do to ensure their existence (service guarantees). Training should teach the employees how to consistently perform their tasks according to the standards, policies, procedures, processes, practices and systems that have been specifically designed to meet the customers’ requirements. Companies who invest their training dollars in such a targeted approach will reap a return of consistent performance and strong customer loyalty.

Customer loyalty is assured when your customers can confidently trust their experience with your company will be the same quality experience each time they purchase your products or utilize your services. Customers want assurance that no matter when they patronize your business or which of your employees serves them, they will get the same level of quality and service each and every time. Consequently, the final step in the Consistent Service Model is the ability to certify that all of your employees are maintaining the same standards and exactly following the procedures you purposely have mapped out to achieve your guaranteed results.

Certification is the means by which you attest that every employee knows exactly how to do their job and they are doing it as designed. You certify that no matter when a customer uses your products and no matter who performs the service, the customer will experience the same quality service each and every time they patronize your business.

The only way you can certify that this will be true is if you measure, monitor and manage the performance of the employees to ensure they are doing it as they were trained. Employees who, for some reason, are not performing their tasks as trained should be decertified and coached or retrained until their performance returns to the specified level.

Certification should be a requirement for keeping one’s job. Regular, on-going certification is the capstone of the Consistent Service Model. Employees must be held accountable for delivering on the implied promises at the desired level identified in the service guarantees.

Business leaders who help their employees identify why they exist, and then do everything possible to guarantee their existence, will find they have created both loyal customers and loyal employees. Customers become loyal when they know they will have a good experience with your company. Employees become loyal when they know how to win at work. The consistent service model guarantees customers and employees win every time.


Innovative Management Group offers a management training course that teaches managers how to develop consistent service at every level your company using the Consistent Service Model. For more information contact us at 702-258-8334 or email

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