Do You Know Your Service Delivery Cracks?

Service delivery cracks are those areas in a business where customer expectations fall between the cracks.

Every business has them.  It’s important to know what yours are so steps can be taken to fill in the crack or at the very least, reduce the size of the service delivery crack.

For example, some hotels have only one person working at the front desk.  After regular hours, that means the front desk agent is also the housekeeping and maintenance departments.  At some point, during an eight hour shift, the front desk will be unattended.

When a guest arrives at a hotel, the expectation is that there will be someone at the front desk to greet them and check them in.  When a guest arrives to an empty lobby, their expectation is now unmet.  That is a service delivery crack.

Let’s look at two very different ways this service delivery crack can play out.

Scenario 1:

A guest walks into a hotel after a long day of travel.  There is nobody around.  The guest looks for a bell to ring on the front desk.  Nothing.  The guest looks into the breakfast area, walks down the hall, looking for any sign of life.  Nothing. Because it’s late and the guest has a confirmed reservation, she waits. Someone has to come back eventually, right? After a very long six minutes, she notices someone coming down the hall.  The person is in uniform, notices she is there and walks over to the desk.  She goes behind the desk and asks “Name?” The guest provides her name; the agent checks her in, gives her the key and says “You are on the second floor.”  The guest takes her key, drags half her luggage up the stairs and then comes back for the last of it.  The lobby is again unattended; that means the last of her luggage was also unattended.

Scenario 2:

A guest walks into a hotel after a long day of travel. There is nobody around.  The guest notices a sign on the front desk that says “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to welcome you personally.  I’ve stepped away from the desk to assist another guest and will be back shortly.  Please have a seat in the lobby and help yourself to a complimentary cookie.”  The guest sits down and in about six minutes, she notices someone coming down the hall.  The person in uniform notices she is there, and with a friendly smile, says “I’m so sorry to keep you waiting.  I imagine you are ready to get into your room.”  She goes behind the desk, asks for the guest’s name, confirms the details of her stay, gives her the keys and says “Your room is on the second floor.  I see you have quite a bit of luggage.  Let me help you get it to your room.”

In both cases, the lobby was empty when the guest arrived.  Both hotels have the same service delivery crack, but the hotel in the second scenario took steps to reduce the customer’s disappointment.

Take a look at your business from the customer’s point of view and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are your customer’s expectations? How long do they expect to wait to be seated, to be greeted or for their food to be served? What type of information do they expect to be available for them?
  2. Where could those expectations be unmet?  If someone calls in sick, how will that impact the customer? Will it take longer for the food to be served or the room to be cleaned?  Will the line up at the till or the information booth be longer?
  3. What can you do to minimize or turn-around that negative moment? Do you let your customers know up front, before they sit down and get comfortable that a favourite item is not available or that the service time may be a little longer than usual today? Do you know what items, if any, you can offer as an alternative?  If you are not able to provide the product or service, do you know who can?

Service delivery cracks, service breakdowns happen.  Spend some time upfront identifying where a customer breakdown could occur and then develop a plan on how to minimize the negative impact.

Your customers don’t care why the service breakdown happened. They don’t want excuses; they want alternatives.  They want you recognize their disappointment and take steps to reduce that disappointment where possible.

Your thoughts?

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