Designing Outstanding Service

Services represent approximately 80% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, so to say we live in a service and experience economy is no exaggeration. Over the past months, I have written how customer experience is a key driver of loyalty. In the recent past, when product differences were more distinct, customer experience played less of a role in determining loyalty. Today, differences between companies and products are often blurred in the customer’s mind, and they tend to make loyalty decisions according to the Golden Rule. Are they treated the way they want to be? Because loyalty is often determined by customer experience, I keep asking myself and everyone who will listen to me: “Shouldn’t we know more about how we deliver the customer experience, so we can improve it?”

As part of AgKnowlogy’s Customer Experience Monitor we compare a retailer’s perception of what drives customer loyalty, and how they think they perform on these experiences to what customers think. Retailers rightly believe “customer service” is an important factor in driving customer loyalty, but most can’t accurately describe how they actually deliver customer service. More importantly few retailers have made service a process that can be duplicated by each employee with predictable results.

In these next few columns, I will discuss service delivery and describe a technique called Service Blueprinting, a customer-focused approach to service improvement and innovation. Service Blueprinting identifies and helps you improve your service process, the points of contact with customers in your Customer Experience Corridor, and the evidence of service from the customer’s point of view.

Three Challenges

To start this discussion, I want to overview three challenges of creating innovation in the service area.

Services As Processes
One of the most distinctive features of services is their process nature. Unlike products, services are dynamic and typically unfold through a linked sequence of events. The service can be short or long term but it is the process or chain of events that makes services unique. To function effectively for a customer, the entire sequence should be well-coordinated and managed as a whole, with emphasis on the steps that create value for the customer. In the chain of events for each service, there are “behind the stage” capabilities and resources that help “on stage” staff deliver the final customer experience.

Developing a deeper than seat-of-the-pants understanding of how customers experience and evaluate your service processes will help you design and deliver services that create a sustainable competitive advantage. The Service Blueprinting technique I will describe helps you visualize your service delivery from the customer’s perspective. This is a prerequisite for making meaningful adjustments in service delivery that increase customer value. I will show how Service Blueprinting is a flexible approach that can be used by agribusiness managers to look at their service delivery from either a micro or macro level approach. This means Service Blueprinting can be used to refine a single troublesome touch point in your Customer Experience Corridor, or it can be used as part of a strategic visual overview of an entire service chain.

Services As Customer Experiences
Customers cannot help having experiences when they interact with your company. The quality of those experiences is a large factor in determining whether they give you repeat business or go elsewhere. A critical issue for any ag retailer who wants to grow is whether you can systematically manage the customer experiences that drive growth, or do you leave that to chance? It’s really one of the big questions you should be asking yourself. In my observation, many retailers view service quality as a “heroic event” delivered by a motivated employee, acting mostly by themselves. This is not the way customers experience your quality! Delivering customer value through distinctive, memorable service experiences is a cross-functional effort. All parts of the organization need to have a common goal of creating process-linked, memorable customer experiences. Companies that approach the challenge of increasing profits through greater customer loyalty and superior customer experience don’t leave these results to chance. The Service Blueprinting technique I will describe will allow your company to visualize any overall service and all its underlying components from a customer perspective. This will provide the learning framework and common ground required to drive service improvement.

Service Design
Well-designed service is a pleasure for customers and is often a point of competitive differentiation. Can we agree that most services in most ag retailers have evolved over time without much consideration toward optimal design? A key ingredient in designing services that deliver superior customer experiences is the ability to describe and replicate service process elements so employees and even customers know what the service involves and what their roles are in its delivery.

When I was a boy, my mother said the last thing I should do before leaving the house for school is look in the mirror. Over the years, critical self-examination has served me well. It encourages me to look beyond what worked yesterday to what might work tomorrow. Ag retailers have a large opportunity to increase the value they provide to customers, and create a sustainable competitive advantage by focusing on customer experiences. The Service Blueprinting technique I’ll start describing next month is a highly visual description of each service process. I guarantee many “ah-ha” opportunities for improving customer experiences will become apparent as employees work through the service evaluation and redesign process.

Leave a Reply

Management Stories
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
StewardshipTFI Announces Renewed Financial Commitment To Fertilize…
April 24, 2015
Today, The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) President Chris Jahn announced that TFI and over 100 partners will more than double existing Read More
Industry NewsMACA Names New Ambassador Coordinator
April 23, 2015
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) has named Michelle Kilper as its new Ambassador Coordinator. Michelle is a graduate of Read More
ManagementAg Retailer’s Role In Local Policy Making; Raising The …
April 23, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review their recent travels, precision ag efforts in Washington, DC, and the role of Read More
TMX-2050 In-Cab Display Launch Run Screen
Precision AgIn-Cab Computing 2015: Connectivity, Compatibility Take…
April 23, 2015
In terms of in-cab computing solutions for the agriculture market, companies like Case IH, Topcon, Trimble, John Deere and Raven Read More
USDA
StewardshipUSDA Outlines Building Blocks For Climate Smart Agricul…
April 23, 2015
Today, the USDA has announced a comprehensive and detailed approach to support farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners in their Read More
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Welcomes New Territory Sales Manager
April 23, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the addition of Kaitlyn Acaster to the Canadian sales team. Acaster will fill the Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Opens New Research Greenhouse
April 23, 2015
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI), a leading provider of bio-based pest management and plant health products for the agriculture, turf Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Acquires Taxon Biosciences
April 23, 2015
DuPont has agreed to acquire Taxon Biosciences, Inc., a leading microbiome discovery company. This acquisition will build on DuPont’s in-house capabilities Read More
Farmer on tablet
ManagementStudy: Consumers Don’t Care If U.S. Farmers Feed …
April 23, 2015
“We’re feeding the world” is a mantra often used by those involved in farming and food to build support for Read More
Industry NewsCorporate Responsibility Magazine Names Monsanto One Of…
April 22, 2015
Corporate Responsibility Magazine (CR Magazine) named Monsanto Co. to its 100 Best Corporate Citizens List for 2015. This is the Read More
FertilizerSpring Nitrogen Management: Form And Timing
April 22, 2015
Most corn producers have planned their spring nitrogen program for 2015, and many have already started to implement their program. Read More
FMC 3Rive 3D
Industry NewsFMC Corp. Completes Acquisition Of Cheminova
April 22, 2015
FMC Corp. has completed the closing of its acquisition of Cheminova A/S, a multinational crop protection company based in Denmark Read More
SoftwareSyngenta Expands AgriEdge Excelsior Nationwide For 2015
April 22, 2015
Growers across the country can now take the guesswork out of improving their farm’s production, land value, farm stewardship and Read More
Cornfield near Sioux City Iowa
HerbicidesU.S. Regulators May Start Testing Food For Glyphosate R…
April 21, 2015
U.S. regulators may start testing food products for residues of the world’s most widely used herbicide, EPA told Reuters’ Carey Read More
FungicidesBRANDT Adds Zonix Biofungicide To Portfolio
April 21, 2015
BRANDT has added Zonix biofungicide to its rapidly expanding line of organic and sustainable products. Zonix is a contact fungicide that Read More
ManagementMissouri Experts: Spring Planting Slow Start Won’…
April 20, 2015
In the first of the agronomy teleconferences with Extension specialists, University of Missouri Extension climatologist Pat Guinan said the slow Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
Industry NewsCooperative CHS Reports Net Income Of $471.5 Million Fo…
April 20, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, has announced company net income Read More
Industry NewsCHS Insurance Names New Director Of Sales
April 17, 2015
Bryan Lewis has been named director of sales for CHS Insurance, the nation’s largest agribusiness insurance broker and full-service insurance Read More