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What makes a company successful over the long, long term? What characterizes the service relationship between companies and customers who do business together for decades, even generations?

How can your company stay close to your customers even as times change, technologies change and expectations continually rise?

What can you do to improve customer service quality and ensure your companys future offers are relevant and valuable in the market?

One powerful step forward that will improve customer service quality is to explore your customers future needs and interests by cultivating Service Encounters of The Third Kind. In these unique encounters, your precious and loyal relationships for the future are built by your words and actions - today. You can improve customer service quality over the long haul by thinking proactively.

Lets start by looking closely at Service Encounters of the First and Second Kinds and how they improve customer service quality.

Service Encounters Of The First Kind

In Service Encounters of the First Kind, your company approaches the customer with the most basic of all customer service questions: "What do you want (or need)?"

Your customer replies with equal simplicity, "I want your product X, by time and date Y, at your listed price Z."

Your companys priority and service focus should now be clear: Get the customers order right, and get it right the first time to improve customer quality!

Campaigns to accomplish this objective are widespread and easy to spot. "Do It Right!", "Zero Defects" and "Six Sigma Quality" are all examples of slogans companies use to focus their workers on getting the basics right, first time, every time to improve customer service quality.

In this kind of encounter, breakdowns in service delivery are bad news since they dont improve customer service quality. They are to be identified, analyzed, solved and, most of all, eliminated to improve customer service quality. The service system must be streamlined and standardized in every possible way to improve customer service quality.

Companies that consistently succeed in this undertaking (delivering X by Y at Z price) earn their reputations in the market as steady and reliable suppliers. This leads, as it should, to customer satisfaction and will improve customer service quality.

Training in these organizations is focused on product knowledge, technical skills, thoroughness, accuracy and adhering to proven procedures to improve customer service quality.

Marketing consists of powerful efforts to push proven products in the market. The customer is "sold to."
Looking into the management mindset of these first kind organizations, we usually find a keen interest in cutting costs, increasing volume and decreasing cycle-time.

This need for speed is important: Competitors are often closing in with similar products, faster delivery and even lower prices. In this kind of competitive situation, profit margins are paper-thin and companies thrive only through continual increases in volume.

So far so good. But if we look into the staff mindset of such an organization, we find a different way of thinking altogether that doesnt help improve customer service quality. Frontline service employees, focused on getting it right the first time, trained to carefully follow all procedures, and encouraged by management to achieve more and more results in less and less time, find themselves answering the phone, opening the mail or meeting the next customer in person thinking to themselves, "I hope this customer isnt a pain in the neck!"