When Service Quality seem indistinguishable

Miller-Little Giant makes a very fine black rubber bucket for use on ranches and farms. The DuraFlex pail is a great product, sold side by side with competing buckets, some of which may sell for less. Crack proof, rush proof and freeze proof proclaims the label. Sure, but who trusts a label? The proof comes when Daisy the cow steps on the DuraFlex and, behold, it isn’t crushed. Miller Little Giant tested its product to ensure that it could stand up to any farmyard incident. But in the real world, customers are incredibly creative in their product use and abuse. What survives an angry cow may not last through an encounter with 10-ton truck. And when the worst happen, when against all odds the ‘crush proof’ is crushed, Miller Little Giant wants to know about it. And this is key – the company wants to make it right with the customer. So, Miller little Giant’s sales force is in frequent communication with its dealer network. Or, Daisy’s owner can tell Miller- Little Giant about the bucket disaster directly via phone or e-mail. It’s Miller Little Giant’s prompt and caring response, focused on maintaining the relationship with the customer that garners it superior loyalty in a market where there seem to be few distinguishers.

When Service Quality seems universally poor:

When an industry has a reputation for poor service, there is tremendous profit opportunity for any company that makes a strategic commitment to managing relationships trough conflict. Few enterprises are as oft-maligned as the cable TV industry. Yet, before a larger company bought it out, Continental Cablevision of St.Paul., MN was creating a very little different reputation. It even won kudos from TV Guide magazine! How? By valuing and managing customer relationships, even in times of conflict.

While others in its sector had the attitude. If you don’t like it, just try to be happy with a few measly broadcast stations, Continental Cablevision of St. Paul was finding ways to woo back unhappy customers. After analyzing why so many customers would discontinue their cable in the summer and then reconnect their service during the Thank giving marketing campaign, they created a plan to allow customers to put their cable ‘to sleep’ for a month or three, while they spent the precious days of Minnesota’s summer at the lake.

If a customer couldn’t get the TV remote to work properly with the cable box, a service representative would call and visit via a special channel. While the conversation took place over the phone line, you and any interested customer could watch the representative as he identified the exact make and model of your remote and then walked you trough the programming process until you reached success. One rep even took advantage of this service to show a customer a new cross stitch technique and customers loved it.

Continental cablevision of St. Paul’s success with its customers made it an attractive purchase. We hold out hope that others will try to copy its success; however it doesn’t appear that TV Guide will be giving more kudos to other cable providers any time soon. .

When Service Quality seems universally good:

Here it helps to consider how customers view the reputation of companies, chains, and franchisers with a single brand who do business with their customers many different locations.

For example, the Marriott Hotels are consistently ranked in the top echelon of guest satisfaction. A recent study by J D Power and Associates and Frequent magazine ranked Marriott third (in a tie with Hyatt). Consumer reports affirm that, regardless of which Marriott property you visit, you can expect a clean well-appointed room and a quality experience.

Marriott pays attention to customer relationship management. Through its awards programs, Marriott collects preference information and tracks usage. Marriott also encourages guests to give comments good and bad, about their experiences, along with suggestions for improving. In addition, Marriott, like other high quality hotel chains, tracks service performance by property. A guest complaint at a single property can harm the entire Marriott brand. Marriott’s customer relationship management strategy recognizes that the value of a guest is far more than a single room for a single night. A guest is worth the sum total of his or her lifetime visits and the value of the other guests he or she will influence to also stay at Marriott or to stay away. Conflict, whatever its cause, is a test of the consistency of the Marriott experience.