Understanding Excellence in Customer Service
Excellence in customer service is always difficult to define, but we all know it when we see it.
However, if we wish to deliver excellent service it is unlikely to happen by chance.
- a language for describing it
- a means of measuring it
- a system for setting standards and targets
RATER: A language for describing the service a customer experiences
The RATER model deconstructs customer service into five distinct and independent dimensions:
These dimensions have been shown time and again to represent the primary aspects of service that we recognise and appreciate. The model was originally research based and has been used extensively by service-orientated companies since its introduction in the 90s. The RATER model begins to give us a language for describing customer service, and can be used equally to review business and consumer customers
Reliability : doing what you say you will do
Assurance : giving the customer confidence in your company
Tangibles : the physical appearance of the company, its offices, staff and materials
Empathy : tailoring the services to the individual customer needs
Responsiveness : responding to changing customer needs rapidly and effectively
For example, using RATER to contrast a recent experience with Amazon Marketplace against one of their major online auction equivalents,
|Reliability||Delivered when promised||Delivered when promised|
|Assurance||Clear rules of engagement, refund policies (and previous experience of Amazon being the back-up of last resort)||Hard to know where you stand if something goes wrong - feel like I'm abandoned to deal with the vendor directly|
|Tangibles||Arrived from 3rd party but with Amazon branded invoice||Arrived shoddily packaged|
|Empathy||Online ordering uses Amazon's own delivery options and pricing allowing a "familiar" choice to be made||Delivery options appeared random and lots of "on-costs" on delivery|
|Responsiveness||Quick and when I wanted it||Quick and when I wanted it|
From the above, it starts to get quite clear exactly why excellence in customer service is so tied in with maintaining strong perception of brand.
You may also spot from the example that our experience of service is dependent on multiple contact points with the supplier - and, in particular, certain of these are of particular importance: we call these Moments of Truth.