As a frequent traveller, visiting different countries, staying in many different hotels and eating in many different restaurants, I occasionally get spoilt with fine service or product offerings that “blow me away” and leave me smiling:
- A warm wet towel upon arrival at a restaurant to mop brow and hands
- A pair of swans (made of towels) and petals to decorate the foot of the hotel bed at turn-down in the evening
- Chocolates or miniature biscuits provided with a steaming cup of coffee
- A two or three minute car vacuum while filling one’s hired vehicle with fuel
- The offer of a 15 minute head, neck and shoulder massage after a long flight
Some service providers and other manufacturing companies just seem to “get it right” when it comes to their respective offerings to clients – although providing core products and services well, they have the ability to enhance the same with other value-added items and service offerings that not only impress their clientele, but also develop warmth in their relationship with these clients. A bond between service provider and client develops and cultivates loyalty, word-of-mouth marketing and emotional attachment or rapport. The client has been captured by care and by the perceived value he or she is receiving and will probably remain a customer if this perceived value is still felt.
If client service deteriorates or there is no further innovation, however, this same loyalty dissipates rather swiftly. The quality service model of Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry (1990) defines five gaps or discrepancies which may impinge on service quality. These are:
- Gap 1 – the discrepancy between customers’ expectations and management’s perceptions of these expectations
- Gap 2 – the discrepancy between management’s perceptions of customers’ expectations and service quality specifications
- Gap 3 – the discrepancy between service quality specifications and actual service delivery
- Gap 4 – the discrepancy between actual service delivery and what is communicated to customers about it
- Gap 5 – the discrepancy between customers’ expected service and perceived service delivered
Perceptual and actual discrepancies leave the client questioning value received and increase the risk of the client going elsewhere for the same services or products. Free To Grow (www.freetogrow.com), in their “Value-Adding Service” module, mention five quality factors that make for 5 star service:
- Assurance – creating complete confidence and trust through the level of knowledge, skills and experience you possess
- Responsiveness – the immediacy of action following a client request or complaint
- Reliability – being dependable, trustworthy and keeping your promises and commitments
- Tangibles – everything a client can experience about your service with their five senses
- Empathy – having your clients feel that you are close to them and that you understand them; you are there for them
Clients constantly, in their minds, monitor and rate companies and service providers on each of the above five factors. Value-added services reinforce and grow the five factors and build testimony. They invest a company’s brand with depth and meaning and add value to reputation. They provide emotional attachment and build rapport.
Value-added services provide real opportunity for companies and other service providers to grow close to their respective client bases and increase loyalty. Retaining clients in a very competitive and volatile environment is paramount to sustainability and longevity, growth and profitability. Value-added services are often simple and relatively cheap to offer, but quite profound in impact. Leveraging these impact offerings not only makes the staff proud of the company and its product offering, but blesses the customer and builds rapport.