As a business manager, how do you know what level of service your company must offer to be successful?  Everybody claims to have great service, but what do they mean by “great?”  Does the service at a Holiday Inn Express compare to that of a Ritz-Carlton.  Of course not, but the Holiday Inn could be just as, if not more, profitable, right?  Where you need to be on the service scale can be assessed to a great extent by four primary indicators:

Expectations:  Your marketing and advertising messages, your pricing, and even the appearance of your signage and facilities set expectations in your customers’ minds about the level of service they will receive.  Your performance against these expectations determines success or failure.  Remember that 40% of customer dissatisfaction is driven by unmet expectations.  Know and set what customers expect in order to exceed expectations.

Industry:  Obviously every industry varies in terms of the importance placed by customers on service.  But don’t get complacent if you think you’re in a low-service industry.  You can be sure that Henry Ford never anticipated how important service would end up being in his business when he boldly stated that his customers could have any color Model-T they desired, as long as it was black.

Competition:  The higher the competition, the better service you will likely be required to provide in order to keep your customers.  Service adds value, and value is what customers use to compare you to your competition.  Mystery shop your competitors.  Gauge their service performance v. yours.

Customer Feedback:  If you have a good feedback system, then little guessing is required.  Your customers are telling you directly what service they require.  But you have to be willing to ask for the feedback.  Be smart.  Ask.  Listen.  Act.

Provide the right level of service to your customers to help sustain long-term competitive advantage.