Magazine article CRM Magazine

How to Achieve Uncommon Service: The First Step Is Accepting the Fact That You Can't Be Good at Everything

Magazine article CRM Magazine

How to Achieve Uncommon Service: The First Step Is Accepting the Fact That You Can't Be Good at Everything

Article excerpt

Every customer knows that all companies do not provide equal customer service--some excel at it whereas others fall flat. Those that provide excellent service tend to follow certain patterns, according to Frances Frei, UPS Foundation professor of service management at Harvard Business School, and Anne Morriss, managing director of the Concire Leadership Institute. Frei and Morriss spoke with Associate Editor Judith Aquino about their new book, Uncommon Service, and why companies need to put customers at the core of their business.

CRM: What is your definition of excellent customer service?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Frances Frei: Excellent customer service means providing great service for the things that matter most to your customers. The reason why may seem counterintuitive, but in order to be great, you have to be bad in some things. You need to understand what your customers value about your business and you'll have to make some choices. To be the best in class, you have to be the worst in class in some areas.

CRM: In your book, you discuss four rules: "You can't be good at everything;" "Someone has to pay for it;" "It's not your employees' fault;" and "You must manage your customers." Why did you decide to focus on these four rules?

Anne Morriss: We looked at a lot of industries and looked for patterns. What practices did companies with excellent service reputations have in common? We weren't specifically looking for four truths--and there wasn't a fifth truth that made the cut. These four were the most robust and can be widely applied to numerous industries.

CRM: Do companies need to follow all four to achieve excellent customer service?

Frei: Definitely the first rule [You can't be good at everything]. It would also be unusual if the third [It's not your employees' fault] didn't apply. The rule about funding [number two] applies to classic businesses but maybe not if you're a not-for-profit. The customer management system [rule number four] doesn't always apply, because the customer doesn't always have an operating role. You'll know what fits your situation.

CRM: Going back to the first rule, aren't companies taking a risk if it becomes known that they're not striving for excellence in everything they do?

Frei: There's a well-intentioned desire to be good at everything. …

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