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Effective Customer Care – Mind the GAP’s

Posted August 22nd, 2007

Providing effective customer care is crucial to the success of any business. We all realise this, and yet at times it feels that no matter how much we meet and exceed customer’s needs, they still want more. So, are customers becoming more demanding? Is customer care slipping? How can we keep up the momentum? I believe I have the answers, but first, let me take you on a journey…

I had decided to take a holiday in a 5 star resort in Thailand. My partner and I were greeted at the baking hot airport by a hotel driver in an air conditioned Mercedes and taken directly to the foyer of the luxury hotel. While we signed in our luggage was ferried off to our room and we were asked to relax in the comfortable chairs with a chilled, refreshing drink. The air conditioning above gently pumped out cool air as the smiling receptionist quietly enquired about our trip, whilst efficiently taking our information. After several minutes a golf buggy pulled up next to the reception and we were driven the 100 yards to our villa on the complex.

As we entered our room we were hit by the smell of fresh flowers and the sight of crisp, fresh, white sheets on the bed. We opened our luggage, which had been placed carefully by the wardrobe, grabbed our bathing costumes and immediately headed for the pool.

At the pool we were greeted by a member of staff that had not only reserved a seat in the shade for us, but also provided clean white towels for us to lay on. While we relaxed, our every whim was met by a smiling member of staff who seemed to instinctively know when you were getting too hot and needed a complimentary drink or one of the hotels famous ‘alcoholic ice pops’.

Now I’m not just saying this to make you jealous, there is a message to this story because this service was way above anything I had ever experienced in my life. I simply had not been treated so well at any point up until that time. It truly was the ‘exceptional customer experience’ that you hear what seem to be urban myths about. By the third day I was starting to get really used to it, I stopped with please and thank you and began to really just relax and enjoy the experience. That’s about the same time things took a turn for the worse…

On the fourth day we turned up at the pool and the staff member was not there. The towels had been carefully laid out at a table for us to collect and my partner and I managed to get our usual sun lounger with the parasol above it (although I had to put it up). When the staff member turned up about 1 hour later I called him over as by then I really needed a drink (there was a bar by the pool, but I didn’t feel inclined to walk over to it). I asked him why he had not been there first thing and he explained to me that he had to help out at the front desk as a large party of guests had arrived and there was not enough cover. I was pretty irritated by this and it was only when my partner suggested that if I didn’t stop complaining to her she was going to throw me in the pool that I relaxed again. I have to say it spoiled things somewhat though and from that point on I started to look for things that weren’t quite right.

Now, I consider myself an easy-going type of person, one who is level-headed and fair. I am not the type to get easily agitated and if I’m honest I would say that whilst writing about my ‘bad’ experience I am a little embarrassed by my thoughts at the time. However, this for me is the true issue as far as customer care is concerned.

When a business, quite rightly, attempts to exceed customer expectations then they have to be prepared to accept that very soon this becomes the norm. If the hotel that I visited had not made my experience so fantastic in the first place I would have been none the wiser. However, once they had made that expectation any slip in standards would be deemed ‘bad service’. This is the challenge that all businesses face, which I call, ‘Minding the GAP’s’.

GAP stands for Good, Accepted and Poor, which are the three levels of standard that customers grade a business by. Unfortunately, customer care is not as easy as always staying in the ‘good’ area. As you will have seen from my example, after a while the good merely becomes the accepted, which if not met, becomes poor.

It truly is a conundrum, which can only be resolved by hard work, determination and a little bit of inventiveness.

Firstly we need to ensure that the people providing customer care appreciate that the GAP process happens. Once they understand the concept, they can be more prepared to realise why customers become seemingly ‘ungrateful’ for the wonderful service they provide and therefore maintain a positive mindset.

In any business we need to have an element of ‘thick skin’ and if the person providing service does not see the benefits and reasoning behind effective customer care and the value that working in the ‘good’ area provides, then the battle is lost. The concept of exceeding expectations must be valued by the individual and they need to appreciate how working in the ‘good’ area will improve their personal working experience.

Once the team understand the concept of GAP, they can start to identify what the specific ‘good’ and ‘accepted’ are for the business; this will help them to relate to the customer experience in a way that they probably hadn’t considered before. It is no good telling members of staff what must be done. If they have no reason to buy into this concept, then it will not happen it’s as simple as that. To buy into something you have to feel part of it. This can be achieved by allowing the team to develop their own thoughts on the matter.

The team should also be encouraged to develop the next ‘good’ elements. What are the extras they can do to further exceed the customer expectations? What will provide that wow factor? If the culture of inventiveness can be developed within the values of a team, you will create a wonderful working environment and truly become masters of customer care and perhaps then you can holiday in Thailand off the proceeds!

Visit Trainer Bubble where you can download our fantastic training resource on Effective Customer Care, which gives you all the course materials you need to run an exceptional training event.

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