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Define Customer Service Differently

Putting customers centre-stage

Is it time to think differently about how we define customer service? In a previous article we explored the definition of customer service with reference to an old TV advert. The advert’s slogan: “everything we do is driven by you” suggests the idea of customer driven services.

In this article we expand on another analogy to define customer service. Putting them at centre stage.

In: Definition of Customer Service we discussed a number of definitions which are probably familiar to us. These included customer service as processes, departments, philosophies and even attitudes. But let’s think about service differently.

How many of us would see customer service as a show? Thinking about service as a show, and your role in it as a performance, can put a whole new light on how you manage it.

Define customer service differentlyIn fact, that’s just what C.K. Prahalad and Vankat Ramaswamy did in their Harvard article: Co-opting Customer Competence. The two academics used an interesting analogy. They likened business to a performance on a stage. The traditional approach to this business performance was for companies to put on a show, for paying and largely passive customers.

Prahalad and Ramaswamy suggested that changes to the way customers engage with businesses (particularly because of the internet) means they should no longer be seen as passive recipients. They are no longer watching the performance, they are moving from the audience to centre-stage.

There is growing evidence that organisations would benefit from a richer understanding of their customers, rather than a narrow, transactional perspective. This means thinking of customers as a valuable resource, with expertise and capabilities.

However, tapping into this resource can be complicated. The customer’s role in the service performance is not always straightforward. Nor, for that matter, is it always obvious.

Define customer service with 3 roles

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Here are three ways to think differently about your customers. Try thinking of them as:

  • Connecters – part of a network which builds your credibility and provides you with business intelligence.
  • Co-creators – helping to design and shape services/products.
  • Co-producers – particularly in services, customers are often part of the effective delivery of a service.

As customers move from passive recipients to active collaborators, think about your service as a show. By putting your customers at centre-stage you’re managing a joint performance.

In doing so you’ll probably do two things:

  • Realise more of the untapped potential in your customers.
  • Define customer service differently!

This is one of the ideas we discuss at more length in our new book: Uncommon Leadership – how to gain competitive advantage by thinking differently.

Where to go from here:

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