THE Service Excellence Guide:

from Service Design to Service Recovery

Kick start your company's Service Culture Implementation

According to a study by McKinsey, 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated.

This means that 70% of your business success stems from how you make your customers feel. And in today’s experience economy, customers not only value but expect exceptional service – and they’ll reward punish companies for the quality of their service with their pocketbooks. In fact, according to Bain & Company, a customer is four times more likely to buy from a competitor if their issue is service-related rather than price or product-related. So if you’re not able to respond to their needs, expectations or compensate for unfavorable experiences, it’s unlikely that your customers will be hasty to return.

From service design to service recovery, here is your guide to achieving service excellence.


Service Excellence ¦ Service Design ¦ Service Recovery

Service Excellence

What is Service excellence?

Service excellence refers to the ability of service providers to consistently meet and occasionally even exceed customers’ expectations and delivering an industry-leading experience.

Service excellence is not just about delivering luxury-level service. The true meaning of excellent service is relative to the service itself and customers’ expectations of it, which also means that the burden of providing excellent customer service falls on even the most budget of brands.

READ: The service excellence definition for 2020 

Service Excellence

Why should serving clients with excellence be at the center of your Business?

Most organizations provide good customer service, but customers keep coming back to the ones that go beyond to provide service excellence. To achieve this level of service, a business should be customer-focused business. It need to put the customer at the centerpiece of its offering. These businesses move at the pace of their customers, and listen closely to their needs and expectations. It involves deeply researching and understanding your customers to understand their patterns, preferences and tastes – and then building your products, services and experiences around these needs.

READ: Service Excellence: Why Businesses Should Embrace It?

CASE STUDY: How to deliver great customer service on board an aircraft: SIA's case

Service Excellence

How to achieve Service Excellence?

Any business looking to embed a service excellence strategy needs to look beyond excelling at customer service, and develop a mindset where important decisions begin and end with the customer.

Rather than developing your business based on sales or growth, the focus should be on customer satisfaction, and how operational changes or the introduction of new products or services will benefit the customer and offer them value.

READ: When it comes to delivering on Service Excellence, companies with a big B2C interface could take a leaf from the hospitality industry.

Below is a selection of 4 steps on how to materialize your service excellence journey.

Knowing your customer is the first step towards achieving Service Excellence.

Tomorrow's model for truly customer-oriented champions is one of customer-centricity. Today’s businesses are fortunate enough to have enough customer data at their fingertips so they can deeply understand their audience – to both improve their performance and become more customer-centric.

By leveraging data analytics, or ‘big data’ as some call it, companies can build a 360° view of their customers, allowing them to foresee their clients’ needs and desires and delight them with products or services that solve their needs – before they’ve even asked. That’s the key to maintaining a competitive edge.

Data can also help companies develop a tailored Marketing strategy. It’s time to face the music: mass-Marketing or one-size-fits-all strategies have become irrelevant, as customers increasingly respond to tailored messaging, delivered on the right platform, at the right place, and at the right time. Personalization – whether it be for B2B or B2C markets – has defined new-age Marketing as we know it, and data is the key to unlocking that strategy.

Developing a company Service Culture is an imperative

A customer-focus should be engrained in your company’s DNA – from your philosophy and values to the your company culture and the characteristics of the people that you hire. Make sure that you clearly define your company culture and values – and communicate them throughout your organization.

These values should focus employees on how to operate with customers on a day-to-day basis, as well as how to build them into their decision-making processes. It should encourage all employees to understand that when the customer wins, the company wins – from your Marketing teams and customer-service agents to your operational staff.

READ: Customer Service Culture: The Customer is King, and Customer Service Culture is his Queen

Delivering Service excellence requires specific skills

As a customer-focused business, your employees must live and breathe your company values. Hire employees that are committed to helping your customers solve problems, and are willing to go above and beyond to serve their needs.

This involves finding employees who are flexible, open-minded and innate problem-solvers. They should excel at communication skills, and have a natural ability to turn complex problems into simple solutions, while satisfying both the needs of the customer and the business.

Depending on the type of service provided, companies should hire people that resemble their customers, sharing their expertise and interests – which will help them build a closer rapport with their customers and better anticipate their needs. For example, if your company operates in a highly technical field, make sure that your team shares the same technical skills and know-how so that they can serve your customers effectively.

READ: Delivering Service Excellence: 5 Lessons by Ritz-Carlton

Effective customer-experience efforts need to be uniquely cross-functional.

From marketing efforts to operations, defining a strong customer focus (not only customer service tools) is an essential of customer-centricity. This calls for smart governance: Clearly defined leadership, behaviors, and metrics.

Adequately addressing the challenge of putting in place such governance requires a dedicated effort on three levels.

  1. A customer-centric leadership structure must ultimately report to the chief executive and should be designed to stimulate cross-silo activity and collaboration.
  2. Leaders must commit to demonstrating behaviors and serving as role models to deliver customer-experience goals to frontline workers and refine and reinforce those goals over the long term.
  3. It is necessary to put in place the correct metrics and incentives that are critical for aligning typically siloed units into effective cross-functional teams.

READ: Is Service Excellence the New Marketing Excellence Definition?

Did you set service excellence goals for your company?

Our Service Excellence Evaluation Tool can help you assess the level of service delivery in your company based on the efficiency of more than 200 services.

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Service Excellence

Why You Need Customer Service Goals?

To advance current customer service practices, business leaders must define two sets of service excellence goals.
First for the entire company, and then individual representatives to better serve their clientele.

It is generally accepted that, in business, goals are a good thing. Well planned and carefully considered, achievable goals provide direction and a sense of accomplishment when attained.

Goals focus attention on desired outcomes and provide motivation. Employees know exactly what they are expected to achieve, encouraging them to determine the best way to deliver what’s required.

Businesses and organisations all have business objectives and goals. Sales teams will have their own collections of sales targets and goals that support the overall business objectives. Similarly, customer service departments, teams and agents need realistic goals which support defined business objectives.

Service Excellence

How to measure service excellence?

How do you know if your customer service is living up to customer expectations?

The answer is in KPIs, or key performance indicators. There are plenty of different KPIs you can use to measure customer service and the success of your business’s customer service strategy. Different ones will make more sense for different types of businesses.

Service Design

What is Service Design?

Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and its customers.

The elements of Service Design
The restaurant example

There are 3 main components to service design:

1. People

This component includes anyone who creates or uses the service, as well as individuals who may be indirectly affected by the service. 

In a restaurant, people would be farmers growing the produce, restaurant managers, chefs, hosts, and servers.

2. Props

This component refers to the physical or digital artifacts (including products) that are needed to perform the service successfully.

In a restaurant, Props would include (amongst others): the kitchen, ingredients, POS software, and uniforms.

3. Processes

These are any workflows, procedures, or rituals performed by either the employee or the user throughout a service.

In a restaurant, Processes would include: employees clocking in, servers entering orders, cleaning dishes, and storing food.

Frontstage VS Backstage

Service components are broken down into frontstage and backstage, depending on whether the customers sees them or not.

Though not ever seen by the audience, the backstage plays a critical part in shaping the audience’s experience.

In a restaurant, what happens in the kitchen dictates what appears on your table.

Service Design

Service Design and Customer Experience

Service Design addresses and organisational weaknesses.

We have all experienced bad service. But the problem for that lousy service rarely originates at the point of contact. That is because organisations are willing to invest in customer-facing aspects of their business, but neglect their backend experience. They fail to realise that shortcomings behind the scenes are impacting the experience of customers. It is on these aspects of the experience that service design focuses.

There is a myriad of areas that ultimately can undermine the service a customer receives.

Service Design

How should a service be designed?

  • Services should be designed based on customer needs
  • Services should be designed to deliver a unified  experience
  • Services should be designed based on creating value for users and customers
  • Services should be designed to be as efficient as possible
  • Services should be designed with input from the users
  • Services should be designed and delivered in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders (both external and internal)
Service Design

How to build Service Design processes?

  • Processes should only include activities with added value for the customer
  • Processes should structure the work and not the other way around
  • Processes should be as simple as possible.
  • Processes should reflect customer needs
  • Process variation should be kept to a minimum
  • Processes should be internalized
  • Processes should be measured
Service Design

The benefits of Service Design 

Most organizations’ resources (time, budget, logistics) are spent on customer-facing outputs, while internal processes (including the experience of the organization’s employees) are overlooked. This disconnect triggers a common, widespread sentiment that one hand does not know what the other is doing.

How does Service Design help bridge this gap?

1. Surfacing conflicts

Business models and service-design models are often in conflict because business models do not always align with the service that the organization delivers. Service design triggers thought and provides context around systems that need to be in place in order to adequately provide a service throughout the entire product’s life cycle (and in some cases, beyond).

2. Fostering conversations

Focused discussion on procedures and policies exposes weak links and misalignment and enable organizations to devise collaborative and crossfunctional solutions.

3. Reducing redundancies

Mapping out the whole cycle of internal service processes gives companies a bird’s-eye view of its service ecosystem, whether within one large offering, or across multiple subofferings. This process helps pinpoint where duplicate efforts occur, likely causing employee frustration and wasted resources. Eliminating redundancies conserves energy, improves employees’ efficiency, and reduces costs.

4. Forming relationships

Service design helps align internal service provisions like roles, backstage actors, processes, and workflows to the equivalent frontstage personnel. To come back to our initial example, with service design, information provided to one agent should be available to all other agents who interact with the same customer.

Want to refine and focus your customers' experience and drive results for your business?

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Service Recovery

What is Service Recovery?

Service recovery is a company's resolution of a problem from a dissatisfied customer, converting them into a loyal customer. It is the action a service provider takes in response to service failure.

READ: Service Recovery in the Airline Industry

What is Service Recovery Paradox?

The service recovery paradox (SRP) is a situation in which a customer thinks more highly of a company after the company has corrected a problem with their service, compared to how they would regard the company if non-faulty service had been provided.

The customer service recovery process

There are five logical steps in the service recovery process:

1. Anticipating customer needs

Anticipating means understanding customer expectations at key points along the experience pathway. If we have a clear idea about what the customer expects at each point along the experience pathway, we can anticipate and prepare for them. When we fail to understand and manage the expectations, dissatisfaction results. The key to success is being able to anticipate the customers’ needs at each step and strive to ensure that processes are in place that will meet and exceed their expectations.

2. Acknowledging their feelings

Service recovery begins the moment we recognize that expectations are not met. At that point, it is vital that we acknowledge the problem and the customer’s feelings. Remember that perception is reality. This is not the time to argue and explain your position. It is the time to accept responsibility for acting on the customer’s complaint.

3. Apologizing and owning the responsibility

Most of us learned the importance of saying “I’m sorry” as young children. Those two words can often diffuse anger and bridge an emotional gap between two people in a wide range of situations. An apology, as simple as it may seem, is an important step in moving the situation away from the negative and into the positive, action-focused arena. An apology is not an admission of guilt. Many people in medical settings are hesitant to apologize for fear of looking like they have done something that could result in a law suit. Not so. You can safely apologize by saying, “I’m sorry that happened.”

4. Offering alternatives

Offering alternatives whenever possible is a method for helping dissatisfied customers regain a sense of control. Rather than telling customers what they can’t have, focus on options for what is possible. Put them back into the driver’s seat.

5. Making amends

Making amends is a means for righting a wrong. It can be as simple as making a sincere apology, sending a follow-up letter, or may include a small gift or token of appreciation. Unfortunately, I find that many healthcare organizations mistake these tokens for real service recovery. I have seen several hospitals create “service recovery kits” consisting of gift certificates and other “perks” prepared to appease disgruntled customers but miss the real opportunities to change systems and operations in order to prevent future occurrences.

Service Recovery

Benefits of Implementing Service Recovery

Having an effective service recovery strategy can help a company in several ways, such as:

  • Improvement in customer satisfaction
  • Decrease in service failures through process
  • Increase in customer loyalty
  • Increase total customer lifetime value
Service Recovery

Service recovery is important in creating a culture of excellence.

When a customer complains, you have a brief window of opportunity to make or break all chances for satisfactory resolution and, ultimately, loyalty.

What does it take for true service recovery?

Training is critical and key to the success of a service recovery program.

Invest the time and resources to train employees. Create customer service standards and use your orientation process to help new employees understand service expectations.

Administer ongoing customer service training that reinforces your expectation for customer interactions.

Lead by example and make sure you demonstrate the behaviors that you hope to see from employees.

Create a complaint process for consistent execution and improvement.

Despite all of your efforts to create a perfect experience for customers – there will be times when it fails.

Create a process for dealing with complaints. Find your best employee communicators and let them respond.

Track your complaint data and glean wisdom from what you learn. Create an improvement plan and make changes to your policies and procedures to incorporate the identified improvements.

READ: Empowering Front-line Service Employees: One Size Does Not Fit All

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