By Robert Craven, MD Of The Directors' Centre

I spend most of my time working with service firms. Either I am their customer or I am their supplier, helping them to grow their sales and profits. They provide services for other people: digital marketing campaigns, logo design, end of year accounts and management information, time management techniques, coaching around objective-setting, social media expertise, strategy workshops, and homeopathic treatments.

While the category of ‘service provider’ is huge, what they have in common is the selling of advice and expertise that will help the client.

There is a delicious irony in the behaviour of the majority of these businesses. They should be exemplars of their trade, demonstrating the highest values in every aspect of their field. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Buried in the mire of working in the business, delivering the product/service to the client in the best possible way (whatever that means!), or finding the next client or getting paid, they usually are less than impressive in the very field that they advise on.

The digital marketing company who has a really naff website, the graphic designer with an embarrassing logo, the accountant who isn’t on top of his own management accounts, the time management trainer who turns up late. You get the message.

It is not so much that they deliberately fail to walk the talk but the reality is that so many service firms just don’t cut the mustard.

These businesses need to map out what is called the customer service journey, listing (and scoring) every step of the customer journey from hearing about the service through to the purchase through to after-sales service. It is my belief that most businesses do not sit down and design the customer experience. It is something that just falls out of what is convenient to the service provider, to fit in with their map of the world.

The reality is that the customer experience is everything to the customer. It is the only thing they can really measure you by. And they would expect an accountant to have stunningly fast and crisp measurement systems (and yet it takes 21 days to get a breakdown of my bill..!), you would expect a web designer to have a faultlessly red hot seductive website, and so on.

The truth is that, in all the hullaballoo and noise that is associated with delivery, the very thing that we claim to be proponents of gets forgotten about. We fail to demonstrate our above-average ability in our field.

So, just imagine how impressive your service firm would be, how much of a no-brainer it would be to potential clients, if you really did demonstrate brilliant skills in your area of expertise.

You should ‘smoke your own dope’ if it is as good as you say it is...

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