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The Usually Forgotten Basics of Good Service

by Allen Weiss  |  
January 1, 2001

Most of the interactions a company has with its customers are service encounters. But how do you give your customers good service?

By the term "service", we're not just talking about giving customers the selection and products they want, and at a price that's reasonable. Service is such an intangible idea (consider how much a service rep's attitude influences a service encounter) that customers often look for cues (like a company's procedures and flow of activities) to help them understand what's really going on.

So, what makes a customer satisfied with service? Better yet, what can you do to enhance a customer's satisfaction?


Research and common sense indicates the first step to service satisfaction is exceeding a customer's expectations.

But where do expectations come from? Well, every communication you have with a customer impacts their expectations. This includes media communcations, word-of-mouth, and prior contacts with the company.

Here's the simplest idea you can remember about service and satisfaction: The more a customer perceives their experience is better than their expectations, the more they're satisfied. While exceeding expectations is best, minimally a customer's experience should equal their expectations.

This sounds easy and simplistic, doesn't it? But companies often fail at this straightforward idea. Salespeople promise customers the world, and deliver less than expected with the result of unsatisfied customers. You've probably had many service encounters yourself where what was delivered was less than what you expected. In many cases the service failure was due to a difference between the actual service and the promised service. But remember, expectations drive this process, so implicit promises can come from many indirect places.

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Allen Weiss is the CEO and founder of MarketingProfs. He's also a longtime marketing professor and mentor at the University of Southern California, where he leads Mindful USC, its mindfulness center.

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