Two service experiences over the last week - one with a taxi company and one with a restaurant. And it draws me back to a seminal paper in services marketing by Parasuraman Zeithaml and Berry called SERVQUAL.
These people argued that when you're trying to deliver good service, your customers evaluate you on a number of things: Tangibles, Reliability, Assurance, Responsiveness, Empathy.
I'm sure we've all been a service staff in the situation where it's all gone to shit. The system has failed and all you've got left is to be the most caring and helpful (under the circumstances) service person you can be. Yep that's you trying to make up for bad Tangibles, Reliability, Assurance and Responsiveness with supremely good Empathy.
So, my good story.
I called a taxi under an hour ago to get me to Melbourne airport. They took my call quickly, they turned up quickly the cab was nice, the driver was good. And for assurance I got this:
The fact that they turned up on time ticked the fifth box - reliability.
But last week I ordered a rare steak at the Maid and Magpie hotel.
- The staff were pleasant but our food waitress didn't write anything down. My sister and myself agreed this is one of the more annoying thing about hipster food service. Assurance - fail.
- My rare steak came out well done. Probably because the waitress had not recorded that aspect in her memory - reliability fail. Tangibles fail.
- Waitress tells me the chef is very sorry - nice try at empathy but we know that it's your mistake. The new steak was on the way.
- We got to where my brother and sister had just about finished the meal in this (pretty quiet) bistro and I checked up. Responsiveness fail.
Upon finding it will "just be five minutes" I got a bit tetchy:
"Five minutes? Say these words to the chef: it takes five minutes to cook a rare steak"
So, I never got my steak. I cancelled it even though they were offering it for free by that time, went home and ate some Kransky sausage.
So, good service is a system thing. Being nice to your customers is only one fifth of what matters. If you fall over on the other stuff, your attempts at empathy are just embarrassing.
Maid and Magpie you can contact me if you like.