Service principles guide customer experience


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When people in an organisation have different interpretations of what really matters to customers, the customer experience falls apart. The difficulty is to align business units and individuals to do the right things – and do them consistently. Strong principles are a powerful way to unite teams to deliver better customer experiences.

Embed service principles that communicate the customers’ voice
Well-designed service principles can be a surprisingly effective way to give individuals, teams and organisations a shared language when they carry out new initiatives. The key to success is to embed principles that carry a strong customer voice. Done right, they provide the direction needed to create results for customers and for the business.

Align the organisation around key principles
Service principles help everyone understand the fundamentals of what creates value for customers. The benefit is that different teams can find good solutions to their specific challenges based on a common rule set.

In highly personalised services such as private banking or complex activities such as mergers and acquisitions, service principles set clear directions for all involved. The strength of the principle lies in the clarity of purpose. The result is consistently delivering high value outcomes without detailed guidelines, or predetermined procedures.

35-to-45 percent of customer contacts don’t need to happen at all

Embed a strong customer voice
Effective principles don’t focus on operational performance indicators like how many service calls are answered or how quickly they are completed. Successful principles convey customer insight in a way that rings true to everyone in the organisation. They ensure that the business truly serves what customers need and want.

One of our clients dealing with potentially upset and angry customers identified that they lost business when customers felt they were not believed. Their first principle simply states, “It is important for the customer to be trusted.”

Strategic principles guide the business
Strategic service principles must be understood by anyone in an organisation. They serve to maintain everyone’s focus on what’s truly important to customers. Most importantly they offer clear directions that can be applied across the organisation.

A clear principle such as “ensure the customer is informed about the next steps and capable to continue his process/activity” guides the way staff, processes and systems are organised. This principle steers customer facing and back-office staff in key activities that deliver on the promise of this principle.

Service principles guide customer experience When the CEO of Ruter, the public transport authority of Oslo goes public stating “We are going to stop irritating our customers”, it is an expression of a strategic service principle embedded in the organisation.

Operational principles guarantee certain outcomes
At an operational level, service principles are there to help an organisation to develop and deliver services in a consistent way. They are working tools that help set priorities, and make decisions when services systems, processes are designed.

A key principle serves two purposes; enable a better customer experience, and reduce operational waste. For example: “The most important thing is that you [customer] are clear about what you are going to do and what I [staff] will do, and not do”.

holding-service-principles02 When the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration established 10 principles for their services, they succeeded beyond expectation. The principles have now been adopted by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enable a coherent experience across the organisations that engage with immigrants.

Promote the principles within the organisation
Service principles become more that words when they are promoted in the business in a committed way. One of our clients regularly reviews their service principles with top management and they provide training to all employees to make sure they are understood. The effect of this dedicated commitment is beyond the expected. Today, even partners have adopted their principles. The result is that customers have a consistent experience, even when dealing with partners.

Ensure that the needs of customers become a common thread across all initiatives.

Give teams clear directions
Strong service principles are a powerful way to get people in organisations out of their silos and see the bigger picture. Built on customer insight, they convey fundamental truths that unite and inspire teams. Service principles enable staff and departments to deliver certain outcomes even when processes and systems are not aligned. Clear rule sets enable managers to drive consistent service delivery, ultimately making life simpler for customers and the business.

Ben Reason
Ben Reason is a service design consultant with 20 years experience with a wide range of public, and private sector organisations. As a founder of Livework he leads the London studio and team on projects that bring a customer view to major challenges and opportunities in industries ranging from healthcare and financial services, to public transport.


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