Some service enterprises are intentionally designed with a cultural theme in mind, such as ethnic bars, cafes, and restaurants. If so, they had better stick with it, otherwise customers will feel out of place. However, all enterprises that deliver service-oriented products, and those where quality of service delivery is a differentiator for products, develop a service culture over time that impacts their reputation.
A place of business is a service theater – the enterprise is on stage and in the public view at all times such that the:
- Stage is the customer service area
- Employees are the actors
- Customers are the audience
- Suppliers provide the costumes and props
- Press and social networking websites provide the reviews
- Management is both producer and director
Management must establish service quality standards and enforce them through the use of mystery shoppers and surveys. Customer confidence, trust, and loyalty increase when employees are perceived as:
- Clean and well-groomed
The concept a service theater does not just apply to physical locations – call centers are service theaters too. How service representatives behave on the phone affects the customers’ perception of the enterprise. Customers can hear smiles, and will be attentive to “please” and “thank you” statements. When customer service centers are outsourced, service quality standards of the provider must be established in line with those of the enterprise, or better.
For all of the efforts to advertise and promote the enterprise and its products and/or services, the moments of truth are when the customer first:
- Meets the employee on the front line, either in person or on the phone, and service is delivered
- Uses the product and/or service
First impressions count.
Management must recognize that all employees must take breaks and relax from time-to-time. However, when traffic slows and it’s time to lean, it’s also time to clean. The most important indicator of service quality to customers is the condition of the bathrooms in the enterprise’s facilities – their condition is a key indicator of the gap between stated and enacted values, and the resulting culture.
With the advent of “web 2.0” and the trend towards posting customer experiences on social networking and other websites, enterprises have to be more concerned about how they are perceived than just from reviews in the press. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing.
Performing in the service theater is an enterpriship (entrepreneurship, leadership, and management) competency.