Customer Service: Dr. Jekyl Versus Mr. Hyde

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Every now and again I experience one of those ‘customer service moments’ where not being delivering what was promised, having an utterly broken customer recovery process and having to deal with uncaring staff come together in a massive service failure, that just makes your blood boil!

But why does this happen so often? Why do the normally nice Dr Jekyl’s who work in call centres occasionally turn into the contemptuous Mr Hyde’s of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel’s fame.

Perhaps some of the answer lies in looking at the Service Quality Gaps Model developed in the US in the mid 80s. The model proposes a number of gaps, which individually and together can lead to service failure.

GAP 1 is between what customers expect and what management believes customers expect. This is a common gap, partly caused by an inside-out view of how to do business, partly by not having a good understanding of customers and partly by having too many management layers between the front-line and management.

GAP 2 is between what management believes customers expect and the company’s defined service standards. Since many customer call centres are managed as cost centres, there is always the temptation to save costs. Unfortunately, these savings are quickly overcome when customers complain and want you to recover the situation.

GAP 3 is between the company’s defined service standards and how service is actually delivered on the front-line. My experience of most front-line staff is that they are generally dedicated people struggling under the burden of an under-funded call centre and with difficult working conditions. There is no wonder that sometimes they cannot help customers; they are not allowed to!

GAP 4 is between how service is actually delivered on the front-line and what was promised by company communications to customers. Marketing far too often makes promises without first organising how they are to be delivered, or even if they can be delivered. Without a doubt, my biggest job as an Interim CRM Manager is making sure that the marketing promises that I make to customers can be delivered, day-in and day-out by the back-office.

GAP 5 is between what the service customers think they received and what they were expecting. This is a tough gap as expectations are set as much by what others do as by what the company can do. If you have ever experienced the excellent service offered by say, Land’s End and them afterwards phoned your fixed-line telco, you will know what I mean!

GAP 6 is between what customers expect and what front-line staff believe customers expect. This is more often a small gap, as frontline staff deal with customers and their expectations all the time. But knowing what customers expect and being able to deliver it is another thing entirely.

GAP 7 is between what management believes customers expect and what front-line staff believe customers expect.

I have often used this simple Gaps Model from the mid 80s to diagnose service quality problems in businesses. And it works just as well in the public sector. The next time you review your service organisation, ask yourself where the gaps are in service delivery, what caused them and what you can do to fix them.

Oh, and before I forget. What was the origin of my service failure? Most probably a combination of Gap 4 for over promising, Gap 2 for under-setting service standards and Gap 3 for continuously putting frontline staff under pressure. There is no wonder that I experienced Mr Hyde on the phone rather than Dr Jekyl!

What do you think? Is customer service excellent at your company? Or do you have obvious gaps that need fixing?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

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