Delivering to customers what businesses say they will is
key in order to differentiate themselves, says Allan Ross of broker
First Independent Finance.


When times are hard, most businesses search for the Holy Grail:
that one thing which gives a competitive edge and helps the
enterprise prosper.

Often, it is right under their
noses. Many have taken it for granted for so long they have
devalued it in their own minds, often forgetting how this thing
they are really good at can be defined. They have not considered
which new customers will buy it, or pay a premium for it and don’t
really know how to measure or promote it.

We faced this challenge a number of
years ago, we still do and we always will.

Here’s a thought. Should ‘hope’ be
the right word for a service industry to use?

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Of course not! I should know how
our customers feel about dealing with us. We should measure it.

I remember discussing service with
our team three years ago. What is it? Who do we offer it to? How do
we define it? How can we measure and promote it? How can we benefit
from delivering excellence in service? Questions all companies in a
service industry should ask themselves.

The answers were not as
straightforward as we thought. Very quickly the concept of ‘going
the extra mile’ was dismissed as it is indefinable. Customers don’t
really expect it and certainly will not pay a premium for something
as vague as ‘we go the extra mile’.

What customers expect is that you
tell them what you will do for them and you deliver exactly that,
time after time after time.

So we started at the beginning, who
were our customers? They fell into different categories who all
expected slightly different things from us: finance houses; end
users; our new business people out on the road; our admin staff
processing deals; manufacturers and dealers.

We defined what we delivered to
them, which fell into three categories: what these customers should
see and receive from us; how we would communicate with them; how we
would behave towards them.

We set out ‘service essentials’, or
what we would always do, and ‘guiding principles’, or what we felt
we should strive to do. Then we put together a ‘what do we do when
it goes pear shaped’ scenario.

We published all of this. We
advised customers, staff and funders and we set out how we would
measure it.

Then we put it all on our website
along with our progress.

The outcome? Happy customers, great
feedback on our service surveys and an award sponsored by
supermarket chain Asda for service excellence.

Also, we received something we
didn’t expect. On every occasion we delivered below our own
expectations, where our ‘pear shaped’ scenario had to be
implemented, we received a thank you from our previously unhappy