17. How Anticipatory Service “Netting” Gets Results – Lead With Your Customer, 2nd Edition:Transform Culture and Brand into World-Class Excellence


How Anticipatory Service “Netting” Gets Results

In this and the other three chapters of part IV, we explore the implementation aspect of transforming your culture and brand. The key aspects here are ensuring that your behaviors are aligned with your core vision and values and have integrity. Integrating World Class Excellence requires using all the components of the models we’ve introduced to anticipate the customer experience, recover well when the unexpected happens, lead your employees through a transformation initiative, and sustain continuous improvement to build a lasting legacy of excellence.

Most organizations often talk about service recovery—which is important, but rarely done well. Part of the problem is that the recovery process occurs after the initial damage has been done. World-class organizations have found a better way to ensure a superior customer experience, which we call “service netting.” To explain the concept of service netting, we’ll use the metaphor of a high-wire act in a circus. You wouldn’t hesitate to place a safety net underneath a trapeze act in case a performer falls. This is the same foundational thinking behind service netting, which means establishing preventive steps to keep poor service from happening in the first place. In stark contrast, focusing only on service recovery is the equivalent of not providing a net but, instead, having a very efficient plan to call the ambulance after an accident.

Although service recovery is a reactive measure, providing service netting is a proactive effort. World-class organizations don’t wait for bad things to happen to their customers—they do what they can to anticipate and prevent them. Service netting requires walking in the shoes of the customers in advance to understand the experience, and then putting “just in case” systems in place to ensure the best for the customer—even if a mistake happens. According to Pam Eyring (2009), president of the Protocol School of Washington, “The key to any successful event or service experience is to anticipate the needs of your guests at any given time. Once you really understand your guest’s perspective, you can design their experience—step by step—with the goal of exceeding their expectations at every turn. When you get the details right, you can actually make memories that last a lifetime.”

One approach to creating a service net is to look at the current service and identify those moments that most often disappoint your customers. When are they most often complaining? What do you need to apologize about most often? When do you have to give money back, or replace an item? These incidents are costly in many ways: money, time, employee morale, and—most important—the cost to the customer’s experience, their relationship with your company, and your company’s resulting reputation.

Track these circumstances that make you vulnerable and identify how you can “catch” customers before they have a poor experience. Remember, the strongest, most effective nets are composed of many strands woven tightly together. You may need to put more than one solution in place to catch customers before they “hit the ground” and become upset. World-class organizations involve all employees in identifying and providing those solutions.

Netting Through the Six Ps

We’ve spent several chapters delving into the best-in-business practices found in applying the six Ps. Before continuing, it is useful to summarize the key points for the six Ps (Table 17-1). World-class organizations don’t just talk about excellence; they accomplish it by design. They successfully bring dreams, words, and goals to life. As they integrate the insights and methods related to the six Ps and pursue them to create a high-performing culture and a compelling brand, it’s as if they’re constructing a strong service net that’s able to hold up both internal and external customers. Now let’s begin connecting the strands that make up this net and then consider several tools that you can use to implement your own transformation to achieve World Class Excellence.

Table 17-1. The Key Points of the Six Ps

P Internal Customers—Culture External Customers—Brand
Promise: Take integrity personally The organizational culture The brand promise
People: Everyone engages their customer Those serving those on the front line Those serving the front line
Place: Consider the customer domain The “backstage” setting for your employees The “onstage” setting for your services and offerings
Process: Make it easy to do business with you Employee guidelines, rules, and policies The policies, procedures, and rules that govern the delivery of your products and services
Product: Provide the best of what they really want The employee offerings you provide The goods and services you offer to external customers
Price: True costs determine value Tangible and intangible costs to the employee Tangible and intangible costs to the external customer
Summary: The Six Ps Customer Formula Promise < People + Place + Process + Product > Price

Failing to Integrate Your Values

There have been many examples of once-revered companies that have betrayed their own values (and their customers’ trust) and lost significant market share—and in some cases, even gone out of business. Obviously, actions have consequences. Bringing your values to life—what your customers value—is a challenging, but vital endeavor.

One recent example is Wells Fargo bank. Throughout its 165-year history, Wells Fargo built public trust on its foundational vision and values, reflected in its 2018 corporate employee booklet:

“The Vision, Values & Goals of Wells Fargo reinforces what’s most important to us:

• Our enduring vision of helping customers succeed financially, which unites us as One Wells Fargo.

• Our five values, which articulate what’s most important to us: What’s right for customers, people as a competitive advantage, ethics, diversity and inclusion, and leadership.

• Our six aspirational goals for the future of Wells Fargo: Becoming the financial services leader in customer service and advice, team member engagement, innovation, risk management, corporate citizenship, and shareholder value.”

In 2016 and 2017, Wells Fargo was discovered to have breached the trust of the customers it purported to serve. The bank admitted to creating fake accounts (Egan 2017b) and charging customers unfair mortgage fees (Egan 2017c) and car insurance they didn’t request (Egan 2017a). The public reaction was swift and punishing, leading to congressional hearings, government sanctions, massive fines (well over $1 billion!), class action lawsuits, and significant leadership changes.

In response, Wells Fargo has implemented significant actions intended to realign its culture and business practices with its core values, vision, and standards. In fact, its 2018 marketing campaign, including investments of more than $500 million to various community outreach and charitable causes, showcases the tagline: “Established 1852. Re-established 2018.” as an attempt to reconnect with the values and relationship that its customer base values.

The plan to recalibrate its culture and brand to its core values is worthy and will make the most of its efforts to mend the damaged relationship it has with the public. Time will tell if its commitment is authentic.

Customers—external and internal—always gravitate toward what they value. When a company leads with its customers, it benefits. When it strays from those values, it suffers. The choice, and consequences, are always there. The question is: What will you choose?

The Integrity Net

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Service is not only a matter of being pleasant to customers—just as being a doctor is not only a matter of having a comforting bedside manner—but also of understanding the systems that make customer satisfaction possible … understanding how and why the whole system works is the fundamental expertise of service professionals” (McColgan 1997).

Since the classic Harvard Business School study that laid the foundation for the Chain Reaction of Excellence and World Class Excellence Models in this book (Heskett et al. 2008), there have been numerous organizations that have successfully made the causal connection between culture, brand, and all the moving parts of the dynamic relationships between an organization, the market environment, and the customers they serve. In her 2018 book Fusion: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies, researcher Denise Lee Yohn describes how leaders at the best companies succeed by aligning and integrating their brands and cultures.

Yohn’s recent research indicates that not only does brand-culture fusion lead to the alignment of your workforce, increasing your efficiency and the quality of your outcomes, it also improves your organization’s competitive advantage because it enables you to produce intangible value that is difficult to copy.

The American Customer Service Satisfaction Index states that leaders in customer service “stemming from superior employee engagement” outperform the Dow by 93 percent, the Fortune 500 by 20 percent, and the NASDAQ by a staggering 335 percent (HR Sapiens 2018)!

Although there is much that can be resolved by a pleasant disposition, a smile can’t make up for shoddy policies and procedures, or for a product that is flawed and poorly designed. Customer service is more than a smiling face. It’s about attending to all the details—or, as we say, “everything speaks.” Everything sends a message through the service you deliver.

To help design a world-class experience, we’ve created the integrity net, a simple tool that has transformed many operations (Figure 17-2). This tool provides an operational snapshot that helps analyze your business in a comprehensive, yet simple (not simplistic) view of the details that make an impact on your customer service experience—whether your customers are external or internal. The integrity net has two aspects:

1. Identify those operational values that are at the core of your brand or culture.

2. Reflect these operational values across all six Ps that fold into the experience.

Using the integrity net, Tables 17-3 and 17-4 show how effective service tactics can support a fitness club’s operational values or do the same for a government agency. (You can construct your own net for your organization using the blank matrix in Table 17-2).

Table 17-2. Sample Blank Integrity Net

Table 17-3. Sample Integrity Net for a Fitness Club

Let’s look at another example, this time a public sector example of a payment center. Here, we see examples of what a payment center could do to support a total experience emphasizing the values of clarity, efficiency, and courtesy.

Table 17-4. Government Payment Center (Both Physical and Online)

Key Points

Several important considerations shape the value of the integrity net:

External versus internal: The previous examples offer a glimpse of how service could be optimized for the external customer experience. Attending to these relevant details builds both a stronger culture and a more solid brand.

Strategic and tactical: Using the integrity net documents, you create a service view for both management and the front line. Regardless of the role within your organization, the integrity net can help you focus on strategic and tactical concerns—both targeting a consistent, optimized attention to excellence.

Freedom within a framework: The integrity net becomes vital guidance on the importance of the company’s values, while providing employees latitude to identify and execute how these values will be “brought to life” using the delivery tools.

Integrity is key: Consistency across all functions leads to integrity—which everyone in the organization can feel great about supporting. When employees feel that they deliver an important product or service and make a difference every day by being a part of a company that “walks the talk,” commitment and buy-in increase dramatically.

Start with the low-hanging fruit: When faced with not knowing where to start, use the integrity net to identify “quick wins” to provide noticeably superior service immediately, while continuing to develop larger, more complicated projects for implementation when resources allow.

Focus on the low-cost or no-cost criteria: Nearly all world-class organizations begin every problem-solving exercise with the challenge to solve it using low-cost or no-cost solutions. Only when there is a significantly higher return on investment (whether tangible or intangible) should you entertain additional expenses.

The application of the six Ps customer formula: P1 < P2 + P3 + P4+ P5 > P6. What you deliver (P2 + P3 + P4 + P5) should be better than what you promise (P1). And what your customers experience should be worth more than the price (P6). Doing so creates superior customer value, loyalty, and advocacy; better margins; and a world-class legacy.

Keep it simple, but not simplistic: The most significant key of the integrity net is that it provides an elegant solution for achieving a comprehensive, fully integrated operation—one that is simple enough to legitimately be implemented in the real-life, everyday operation. This tool can span the gap between knowing and doing.

An example of a leap in customer service due to strategically mapping the customer experience is shared by Nicola Millard (2009), head of customer insight and futures for BT (formerly British Telecom), whose call center was struggling with handling complaints. BT wanted to resolve issues earlier to prevent dissatisfied customers and save unnecessary operational expenses. Millard explains:

Complaints are opportunities to learn from customers and resolve issues. We found complaints to be about 4 percent of the traffic into the traffic center and, on average, each complaint generates seven subsequent calls (a big operational challenge). By proactively calling customers who looked as if they were about to complain, BT succeeded in increasing the number of customers who said they would recommend BT by 40 percent. We also were able to increase the number of customers who reported themselves to be very or extremely satisfied. We also significantly reduced the number of high-level complaints which reached the upper echelons on BT senior management.

Steps in Building an Integrity Net

To build your own integrity net, do the following:

1. Decide on the purpose: the customer experience (brand) or the employee experience (culture).

2. Determine the scope: What aspect of the customer or employee experience do you want to build out?

3. Outline the values that should shape this experience.

4. Identify P1: What you are promising (from the customer or employee perspective) relative to your values as they pertain to the scope of your analysis?

5. Brainstorm aligned solutions that exceed expectations with respect to the people, product, place, and process.

6. Establish the appropriate price for the quality of your product or service experience based on the tangible and intangible costs that your customer or employee must pay and their other available options.

7. Implement the action items identified throughout your integrity net.

Service Mapping

In addition to using the integrity net to attend to a single aspect of an experience, you can string together a series of matrices to reflect the entire customer experience. We consider this a form of “service mapping.” By identifying each step, or “moment of truth,” of the experience, you can attend to the details that matter most to your customers—and create a seamless, extraordinary experience in the process.

Let’s look at two examples of how to build your brand as well as your culture. The first one involves building the customer brand. Suppose you operate a fitness club. A matrix could be created for every step of the external customer experience (Figure 17-1).

Figure 17-1. A Matrix for a Fitness Club Showing Steps in the Customer Experience

You can also use these matrices to build employee culture. Developing a series of matrices for each step of the employee experience creates an opportunity to establish an extraordinary organizational culture. For example, for the talent management process, you could build out matrices for selection, orientation, on-the-job training, and so on (Figure 17-2).

Figure 17-2. A Matrix for a Talent Management Process

Summing Up

There are numerous other internal options that would create both improved integrity and effectiveness. You could map the budget cycle, the purchasing-approval process, the special events process—the options encompass any aspect of your business operation you want to improve. The goal is optimizing your internal customers’ (employees’) experience as well. In summary, we offer a robust strategy for building a strong brand as well as a cohesive culture for an organization that is set apart from the rest of the industry to achieve World Class Excellence.

Next Steps for How to Start Building Your Service Net:

Have you clearly identified your operational values?

What are your customers’ expectations regarding each of the four experience Ps (people, place, process, and product)?

How can you exceed the expectations of your customers in alignment with your values?

What are the individual steps of your customer experience?

What trends or patterns do you see regarding moments of frustration?

How can you apply the previous steps to your internal customers?