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?”

• Chart: Mapping Out Service

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

Featured Stories

Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environmental Respect Award Honors
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis To Relocate Agribusiness Division To Denver
July 16, 2014
The move Eastward will allow Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness Division to be more accessible to relevant geographies and is expected to enhance communication and collaboration among the division’s nearly 3,000 employees. Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesValent Launches New Seed Protection Fungicide For Soybeans
July 16, 2014
The INTEGO SUITE System contains the first new, novel seed protection fungicide chemistry registered in 30 years by the EPA for protection against Pythium and Phytophthora. Read More
LegislationUSDA: Quick Implementation Of Disaster Assistance Programs A ‘Top Priority’
July 9, 2014
USDA has processed 106,000 payments to farmers in 40 states across the country who suffered livestock and grazing losses between Oct. 2011 and passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More
EquipmentKinze, Raven Team Up On 4900 Planter Monitor
July 23, 2014
Kinze Manufacturing announces a partnership with Raven Industries to develop a standalone monitor solution for the Kinze 4900 series planter. With this new Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Continues To Confuse As Growers Await USD…
July 23, 2014
The new five-year Farm Bill eliminates many of the direct payments previously payed to growers and could benefit from USDA clarification, reports a Toledo Blade columnist. Read More
EquipmentPrecisionAg.com Relaunches With Responsive Design For M…
July 22, 2014
PrecisionAg, the worldwide leader in precision agriculture information and analysis, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, PrecisionAg.com. Read More
FungicidesEPA OKs Two Willowood Fungicides
July 21, 2014
The EPA has approved Willowood Azoxy 2SC and Willowood AzoxyProp Xtra. two widely used broad spectrum, preventative fungicides with systemic and curative properties. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learning Fast As UAVs Take Off
July 17, 2014
Farmers and others interested in how UAVs can be used in agricultural applications were able to learn more about the technology during the recent Precision Aerial Ag Show. Read More
CropLife 100Bobby Knight, Richard Petty To Highlight Ag PhD Field D…
July 17, 2014
Attendees at the July 24 Ag PhD Field Day at Hefty Farms will learn about the latest agricultural technologies, and get a chance to meet legendary sports figures Bobby Knight and Richard Petty. Read More