The Egress of Service

Chip Bell Posted by Chip Bell.

Chip R. Bell is a senior partner with the Chip Bell Group and manages the office near Atlanta. He is the author of nineteen books, including Managers as Mentors (coauthored with Marshall Goldsmith) and Wired and Dangerous (co-authored with John Patterson).

The Egress of Service

Most every bridge in the country has the sign, “Bridge freezes before road.” The reason for the warning is grounded in the fact that every side of the bridge is exposed where only the surface of the road is exposed. And, bridges are often constructed of steel and concrete which are better conductors of heat than road asphalt. But, the sign is also a metaphor for the service journey of customers.

The egress of service includes the junctures where one state is bridged to another. It is the self-service delivery system that makes it easy for customers to come in but difficult to resolve a problem when things go sour. It is the handoffs by phone that make you repeat your story or the hoops you jump through and the processes that pass you from pillow to post and Patty to Paul. It is the wrongs and rights of passage that impact customer effort, hassle and anxiety.

The egress of service also includes the rules that add no value; the systems that only favor the service provider; and, the bureaucracy crafted by someone who never had to get a taste of their own concoction. It includes all the white spaces of a service process diagram where no one is in charge thus making them geography where customers are more apt to “fall between the cracks” or “get lost in the system.”

Customers today are more in a hurry than they have ever been. The buzz of enterprise too often is dissonant, lacking a sense of rhyme and rhythm. It can be bumpy and cumbersome; emotionally noisy and more a cacophony than a symphony. And, it can create a powerful opportunity for service providers that creatively make the path to service a pleasant drive.

Pleasant egress sounds like, “we’ve never done it that way, but let’s give it a try” or “have it your way.” It is the hospital that gets you into a hospital room for a procedure and then sends someone to your room to complete the admission paperwork. It includes signs that say, “We DO take personal checks” or “Park wherever you like.” It is the head of the service department at car dealership who, after running out of loaner cars, tells a frequent customer, “Here, please take my personal car.”

How do you manage the egresses of service? First, take an empathy walk with customers asking them to detail their experiences. Be a customer. Call your own unit, disguise your voice, and request something out of the ordinary. Take note of those bridges where customers are at risk of being left unmanaged or poorly treated. Now, look for ways to install the safeguards that make certain the bridges of service never freeze on the road to great service.

Photo Credit: Cole Patrick

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