Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Smoke Your Own Dope

I spend most of my time working with service firms. Either I am their customer or I am their supplier, helping them to grow their sales and profits. They provide services for other people: digital marketing campaigns, logo design, end of year accounts and management information, time management techniques, coaching around objective-setting, social media expertise, strategy workshops, and homeopathic treatments.

While the category of ‘service provider’ is huge, what they have in common is the selling of advice and expertise that will help the client.

There is a delicious irony in the behaviour of the majority of these businesses. They should be exemplars of their trade, demonstrating the highest values in every aspect of their field. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Buried in the mire of working IN the business, delivering the product/service to the client in the best possible way (whatever that means!), or finding the next client or getting paid, they usually are less than impressive in the very field that they advise on.

The digital marketing company who has a really naff website, the graphic designer with an embarrassing logo, the accountant who isn’t on top of his own management accounts, the time management trainer who turns up late. You get the message.

It is not so much that they deliberately fail to walk the talk but the reality is that so many service firms just don’t cut the mustard.

These businesses need to map out what is called the customer service journey, listing (and scoring) every step of the customer journey from hearing about the service through to the purchase through to after-sales service. It is my belief that most businesses do not sit down and design the customer experience. It is something that just falls out of what is convenient to the service provider, to fit in with their map of the world.

The reality is that the customer experience is everything to the customer. It is the only thing they can really measure you by. And they would expect an accountant to have stunningly fast and crisp measurement systems (and yet it takes 21 days to get a breakdown of my bill..!), you would expect a web designer to have a faultlessly red hot seductive website, and so on.

The truth is that, in all the hullaballoo and noise that is associated with delivery, the very thing that we claim to be proponents of gets forgotten about. We fail to demonstrate our above-average ability in our field.

So, just imagine how impressive your service firm would be, how much of a no-brainer it would be to potential clients if you really did demonstrate brilliant skills in your area of expertise.

You should ‘smoke your own dope’ if it is as good as you say it is...


Alison Sommerville said...

It helps to stand outside of your business looking at it with an expert :About having the systems in place and not thinking that you can stand still in the blissful knowledge that you've 'Got it right'. One can walk the talk, perhaps. Whether one does this with consistency and reviews the customer experience is another thing.

Robert Craven said...

Yes, the customer experience is crucial...


Massimo Gaetani said...

Great post Robert, I agree entirely on your point of view and I agree that it could be easy to fail on your own field; I recently wrote a post that fits well with this, mentioning unfit personal trainers and graphic designers with bad websites http://t.co/JOlWyOqc

Robert Craven said...

sounds like we are singing from the same hymn sheet... great minds etc

Gary said...

Taking care of your own business does fall behind in the mad rush to look after client needs. It's recognised in the latest types of provision (as you've already highlighted extremely well) and also in traditional service industries such as builders, cleaning companies and mechanics who seem to have unfinished extensions, neglected kitchens and 'bangers' in the driveway respectively.

It can also be a symptom of familiarity and fatigue, where people view the familiar surroundings or have been 'in' the business all week and want to switch off. I fully agree that the service provider should 'smoke their own dope' and actually by reviewing and refreshing their own operations or brand definition will undoutedly find new opportunities present themselves.

As a mentor to entrepreneurs I've really benefited by sharpening my own entrepreneurial competence (still learning every week) which enhances my perspective when working to improve the performance of others.

benjamin said...

I find it fascinating how often I need to reflect quite carefully on whether I am actually 'walking the talk'.
Talk to my team about it!

Emma Fryer said...

This is an excellent post and a really good example of do as I say not as I do!Personally customer service is something I am passionate about.  I know what good customer service is and what I expect and all to often 'That just wasn't it.'  The new 'Customer Experience' phrase is something I have discussed in my blog - here in case you wanted a read. http://emma-fryer.com/2011/08/customer-service-and-customer-experience/ 

My business (http://answer-it.co.uk) was set up to help business owners find that time to work ON their business and still maintain a fantastic standard of Customer Service.

For that reason we have to be outstanding in our Customer Service as we are not only representing the business we are taking calls for but we are also representing our own company.  I am proud to say that all members of the team are very aware of this.

Robert Craven said...

We no longer compete on the basics  - that's assumed. More and more the chief differentiator is customer service. Why fdo I go to restaurant A (where the food isn't so great)? Why do I go to pub B (where the choice isn't so great)?

Often the answer is customer service.


Jamie said...

Great post. Provacative title but good content.