Saturday, March 25, 2006

Are you Programmed to Give Service?

I had an experience recently that got me thinking about "Service."

I'm in the service business. In some sense, we're all in the service business. If nothing else, you serve your boss. If you're a small business consultant, you serve your clients.

But did it ever occur to you that you have a different definition of service than someone else? I recently had a clash between two different definitions of service:

1) Just do it. Take care of all the details. Only ask me for limited information. Present me with a finished product.

2) Work with me. Keep me informed of every step. Check everything with me. Verify my satisfaction at all times.

These are both legitimate ways of looking at service. But problems can arise when you give one kind of service and the client is asking for the other. Here's what happened to me.

I hired someone to help me do some work around the house. I wanted to (needed to) send her off to just get things done. But she wanted to make sure everything was just right. The result was, she kept asking me about all the details. I felt like it would be just as easy to do the work myself. I found someone else to do the work.

Was it done exactly and perfectly, as if I'd done it myself? No. Was it done very well? Yes. And I got to do other things at the same time. That made it worth the money.

Your customers might have the same disconnect bewteen what they want and what you think they want. You don't want to make too many assumptions, or go off doing work the wrong way. At the same time, you don't want to bug them so much with details that they just want you to go away.

The answer is communication. Don't assume that all your clients are the same. Ask them about the type of service they want. This isn't "level" of service. The highest level of service is to give the client what they want in the way they need it. So, you don't know what a high level of service is until you ask.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

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