The Problem with Service Today

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Home > Articles > The Problem with Service Today

 The Problem with Service Today

Ron Kaufman | General
August 27, 2012
We are facing a worldwide crisis of service.
Huge economies are transforming from being manufacturing-orientated to service-based at a record speed, and our population is largely unprepared. Customers are angry and will complain to anyone who listens. Service providers are irritated to the point of resentment and resignation. Many organisations promise satisfaction to customers. They then allow internal politics to frustrate their employees’ good intentions to deliver. And, our early educational systems do not recognise the subject of service as an area for serious study.
Yes, we face a service crisis. But, how can that be?
Service is all around us, but there is still a vast disconnect between the volume and the quality of service we experience every day. There is a two-fold catastrophe in our lives that makes very little sense. First, individuals and organisations are unable to consistently provide satisfying service to customers, clients, and colleagues. Second, many service providers complain continuously about jobs they dislike.
Service is an essential part of our daily lives, so why are we not doing it better? Why is service in an abysmal state?
Problem One: Service is Considered Servile
The word “serve” comes from the Latin word for “slave,” which is not an attractive proposition. On a commercial scale, it does not help that the customer service department is often seen as a necessary evil. It is a place where people visit only when things go wrong, and where angry customers are seen and heard. It is where costs are cut, contained, and attributed to other company functions.
All of these are operationally, economically, and emotionally counter-productive.
Numerous organisations and studies have shown that loyal customers are more profitable than customer turnover. Better service is a key to retaining top customers. The positioning of superior service allows for higher pricing and margins. Shareholder value tends to grow in step with a company’s service reputation in the industry.
With recognised and clear benefits, why is improving and sustaining excellent service so difficult to achieve?
Problem Two: The World of Service is Poorly Mapped
The world of service and continuous service improvement has no common language. The entire industry suffers from weak cliches, poor distinctions, and inaccurate common sense. “The customer is always right” is often wrong. “Go the extra mile” is bad advice when the client wants precise fulfilment of exactly what was promised. “Serve others the way you would like to be served” is well-aimed but misguided. Good service is not about you, it is about what someone else prefers.
The world of continuous service improvement, and building service culture, has struggled with no proven way of working. Service staff have suffered from the lack of actionable models, proven principles, and effective processes and frameworks to guide them safely.

First, we must transform the outdated view that service to others makes us submissive, inferior, or servile. Service is taking action to create value for someone else, which is the essence of every successful business, organisation, and career. Uplifting service brings pride to service teams and it increases a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction at work.
Next, we need a proven methodology that works with fundamental principles to apply in every service situation. We need practices that consistently and unfailingly deliver service value to our professional and personal lives.
We need a common service language to effectively communicate our visions, expectations, and promises to each other. We need leaders who model service at every level of an organisation. And, we need a framework that aids people to engineer a self-sustaining culture of uplifting service. A passionate group of like-minded people with a plan and commitment to action can transform our world.
Imagine a world where everyone is encouraged and encouraging. Where the common intention is not just to resolve problems, but to uplift and inspire others. Envision a world where people measure their success by the responses they receive not by the actions they take. A workplace where tasks and projects are not considered complete until someone has been surprised or delighted. Imagine a world where people are committed to uplifting the spirit and practice of service because they really want to.
Visualise an uplifting organisation with fully engaged service personnel who encourage each other to improve customer experience.  This will make the company more successful and it contributes to the community.
Ron Kaufman is a leading educator and motivator for uplifting customer service and building service cultures. He is author of the Uplifting Service and founder of UP! Your Service. This article is an exclusive excerpt from Ron's upcoming book: Uplifting Service - The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, & Everyone Else You Meet.
Copyright © 2012 Singapore Institute of Management

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