you don’t define good service


I do go on a lot about service but it is so important and can so easily be a strategic competitive advantage – particularly in Australia where service standards are so low.

Service is also so often a source of lies that in turn damage the trust that customers and potential customers have in a business. How often have you heard an advertisement promise ‘excellent service’ only to experience mediocre or even poor service when you interact with the business?

Sometimes this might be because the business is bullshitting about their service and sometimes they are just exaggerating. Most often however, I suspect it is more related to the business not really knowing what the customer considers to be good service.

This might relate to:

  • What customers consider are the characteristics of good service.
  • The expectations the consumers have in terms of standards.

‘Service’ is a bland term that means different things to different people. What constitutes good service will inevitably have a number of more specific characteristics. Inevitably there are a number of characteristics that enable customer to judge service standards.

Further those characteristics will vary from sector to sector, from market to market and from channel to channel. So many retailers tell me for example that price is the reason online shopping is growing so quickly. Well, IT IS NOT! The principle drivers of online shopping are range and convenience followed by price. People want what they want and they want it quickly.

Standards of service are also important and very hard to judge. In my experience many business people under estimate the expectations of their customers.

In the online retail environment reasonable service is defined as 3 days to delivery while good service is defined as 24 hours to delivery. Five to seven days delivery is considered bad service and will almost certainly have a negative impact on what little loyalty exists in an online environment.

Also critical here is of course delivering on the expectation created.

My central point here is that it is the customer who defines what constitutes service and what standard of service is considered good. It is not the business that defines service and it is all too common in my experience for there to be a disconnect between the customers expectation and the businesses offering.

Increasingly research is suggesting that service and not the product per se is the primary driver of brand loyalty. Certainly in some product categories service has been found to be as important as the product.

Equally research suggests that a poor understanding among business people of what customers consider good and bad service is poor. Certainly business undervalues things like not keeping customers informed, not taking credit cards under $10, charging for delivery (‘because it is a contractor’) demonstrating excellent product knowledge and over estimating the importance of price.

All too often in my experience business people think that their criteria in terms of service are a reflection of those of the customers. This is often not the case.

Good service is when you meet or exceed expectations and to do that it is generally best to understand expectations.


  1. Customers define their expectations of service components and standards.
  2. Few businesses know enough about the expectations of their customers.
  3. Research is the key to delivering service that meets or exceeds expectations.
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