No one starts from a blank slate when engaging service. Both the buyer/user and seller/provider come at the engagement with expectations – before the first interaction.
Determining expectations explicitly and fully understanding them is essential to successful engagements.
But it’s rarely done to the degree that’s needed. And when they’re not, lawsuits, red ink, torched reputations and hurt feelings can result.
Looking at Gap 5
In “Gap 5 & Roswell” you’ll find the key driver to service quality is Gap 5, which is from the ServQual model by Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry.
Gap 5 is the distance between customers’ expectations and their perceptions. The closer the gap – the higher the service quality. And once engaged, service quality is a big driver to happy business.
Yes, price and product quality count too, but once engaged price is compared to the quality received to see if they match. And product quality isn’t a major driver in services.
Starting a service engagement screams for really understanding those expectations. Before service starts.
Specifications are not Expectations
Specs define “what” is done, sometimes “when” and by “who”. But rarely do specs spell out how exactly the results buyers/users want. Even if they do, there’s a world of different interpretations.
Sellers/providers can work through processes with buyers/users describing their expected outcomes in writing, even by pointing to physical examples to agree on what they’re seeing.
SLAs & KPIs are Not Enough
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are great tools and necessary components for determining expectations. But there’s more to it than customer satisfaction and inspection scores.
Understand Communication Preferences
How and when expected information is communicated is also a part of buyers/users expectations.
Sellers/providers must find out how and when buyers/users want to be contacted. And in what circumstances.
Emergency Contact Lists are Not Escalation Protocols
Sellers/providers must get specifics from buyers/users about triggers for communicating incidents in progress. Security services and IT providers typically do this well.
However, all service providers should document a series of common incidents that can happen and find out their buyer/user wants to hear about it and when. Best to work this out during the pre-start up phase of a contract/provider transition.
Asking is a Great Way to Raise Awareness
When sellers/providers ask for these specifics from buyers/users it points out several things, all good:
1) This seller/provider is proactive, process-oriented and experienced enough to deal with more than the incidents – but also to keep their buyer/user in the loop and blood pressure down.
2) The buyer/user gets to think about how they want to work with their seller/provider. As a result the working relationship has a better chance for smooth interactions during tough times.
How do you determine expectations?