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It is interesting to consider which kind of business delivers excellent service. Some big players can do it, some small ones too. If you have ever had to call Apple’s helpdesk, you probably experienced great service; conversely calling a Telco in Canada can be a frustrating experience. Equally, you may have your own stories around service delivered from a small firm.

So how does a big firm like Apple manage that? Is it a function of the margins the industry earns? If the industry earns large margins, should you expect more one on one service? If a large firm operates in a low margin environment, such as a large airline, should you expect low service levels?
I suggest the reason for receiving good or bad service is more about that company’s culture. Apple have this figured out; call their helpdesk and the person you deal with will understand and (seem to) care about your issue. They will not rush you, make you feel inadequate, or that you are abusing their time. A small business that delivers service has more to lose of course. They can lose time, or they might keep another potential customer waiting, or be simply unable to solve the issue and fail to deliver that great service they hoped to provide. They cannot “think big” in this regard, after all, they are small. But at the end of the day, a company culture that “thinks small” will consider that every customer is important, and is less likely to treat a customer like a number in a long line of consumers.

In a smaller business, employees are more easily held accountable for their service decisions. At a small firm the buck is more likely to stop with the employee who did – or didn’t – offer good service, simply because that employee is far more visible. At a large business the management ‘controls’ over service, are necessarily lower. Their best chance of influencing excellent service is driven by the culture they create rather than the KPIs they keep. The ability for a service culture such as Apple’s helpdesk to ‘think small’ is working for them.

Can your business regardless of size, “think small” and pride itself on customer service?