We are presented with service from the moment we are born till we leave this world. Service has also evolved over time what it meant then and now are quite different.

Before I join the service industry, what I know about service was well-groomed ladies and gentlemen, speaking very politely with friendly gestures, and a delightful smile. And these ladies and gentlemen were always helpful, and nothing seems to be impossible. This was the service industry I knew before 1980, the year after I graduated from primary school. As a teenager from 1980 to 1986, my experience with service was quite different. I start to notice the lipstick on female servers, and they are all of one standard bright red. For male servers, most of them have well-oiled hairstyles.

I have also started to see the different level of service provided in a different establishment. When I started training at SHATEC (Hotel Training School in Singapore), service standards have again evolved. Many staff in lower-classed establishments have worn-out uniforms with super faded labels showing half the company’s logo. Many started to go home in their uniform in a different state of undress (e.g. Without the jacket, or only the pants and shoes etc…). I also notice the colour of lipsticks is also changing.

Those who still stick to bright red lipstick were some of the higher-classed establishment and most of the elderly female service staff. Others appear to be experimenting with different colours and shades of lipsticks, and make-up are getting outrageous based on the culture at that time. Hairstyles are also getting crazier, some had exceptionally long hair, some super curly, others were noticeably short or even bald. Different styles of costume jewellery were worn as it was in fashion during that time.

When I joined the service industry, I was introduced to a kaleidoscope of crazy service standards. From the most innocent looking grooming in over-sized uniform to a psychedelic display of make-up, jewellery, and remodelled uniforms. Standards became more normal when I joined a 5-star property with some crazy styles still appearing. This is just the grooming standard in the service industry.

The customer has also evolved. From a simple customer buying a product offered to different levels of complex models of demanding more than the product offered. Customers are no longer asking for the product or service. They are asking for a service experience. Service Experience was simple with a good quality product with a smooth payment transaction without any hidden cost thereafter. It has evolved to include complementing elements like packaging, decorations, and the environment.

Now, the experience includes how the customer feels before encountering the service, external factors affecting the service, and after the service. In every service experience, the customer is demanding more than just the product. Service has evolved so much that the original concept of service has changed almost completely. What we learn in school tell us that customer and service staff is the most crucial relationship, but now, the relationships also include everyone involved in producing the product or service from the producers, suppliers, distributors, company’s management, and in-directly related staff.

As the demand of the customers become more complex, the products and service also must improve in the quality standards, the service organizations also evolved into a complicated mess of service supplies which offer more to the customer. It does not seem to quench the thirst of the customer, instead made them demand for more.

The pace of evolution in service is so crazy, especially in the last 20 years. I have observed, as a customer, as a server, and a service educator and found a crazy pattern of evolution. Service is no longer about the Customer and the Service Staff. It has to involve everyone directly or indirectly related to the product or service offered. From the wisdom shared by Mr Ron Kaufman, I have discovered 3 secrets to Delivery Service Beyond.

Secret#1… Decrypting the Customer Profile

Know your customer has taken on a new meaning. It has a simple formula of knowing the characteristics, buying behaviours, and desires for the product or service. Now we need to understand how to react to the different characteristics of the customers to put him or her in a comfortable, easy to persuade position. Mystically speaking, we must hypnotize the customers to listen to our bidding. Instead of just knowing their buying behaviour is falling short of making them close the deal, the customer mindset must be psyched to ask for the deal to be closed. Knowing their desire only provide the basic satisfaction level of service experience, however understanding the driving force behind their desire and ability to feed on it will deliver service experience beyond.

Secret#2… Strengthening the Service Triad.

To achieve Secret#1, there are 3 groups of key players involved. Of course, we have Customers. This is addressed in Secret#1. We also need to look at the Service Organization which is no longer the company itself but includes the complementing companies that support the productions of the products and services offered. The last player is the Staff that are directly or indirectly in touch with the customers. Each of these players in the Service Triads plays a crucial balancing role in service. When the balance of strengths is achieved, we can offer an experience beyond the expected.

Secret#3… Equipping the Service Professionals

The contact staff with the customers remains as critical as before. They can make or break the entire service experience. Many are hired but not trained sufficiently to handle the role to deliver an experience beyond the expected. The current skillsets can only bring great experience to the customers based on the directions of the service organization. To achieve beyond this level consistently, the skill sets must evolve and master before serving the first customer. The skillsets include cognitive, affective, and psychomotor competencies to be mastered before we can offer service experience beyond consistently.

I will share more over the year and hopefully, we can all learn to consistently deliver service experience beyond.

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