In a previous blog post, Transforming the Service Experience – 5 Dimensions of Service Quality, we introduced the RATER Model of customer service as a tool to help us transform the service experience into one that is valued by our customers and creates a sustainable competitive advantage. The model represents the five key dimensions of service quality and provides service providers with a template for defining and creating their unique and valued service experience. Today we will consider how a service company can define the dimension “Reliability”.
As you may recall, the name RATER is an acronym with each letter representing the first letter of one of the five dimensions. They are:
R eliability: Our ability to provide what is promised, dependably and accurately,
A ssurance: Our knowledge and courtesy, and our ability to convey trust and confidence,
T angibles: Our physical facilities and equipment, and our appearance,
E mpathy: The degree of caring and individual attention we provide to customers,
R esponsiveness: Our willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.
As a service provider, we can define how we will deliver each of the five dimensions of service quality and then set in motion the training, processes and expectations to make it happen. But, delivering on the dimension is not enough. As we touched on last time, the customer has to experience it. This is a perfect example of “perception is reality”.
Take the first “R” in the model – Reliability – for example. As a person, I may be as reliable as a Swiss watch, but if you do not perceive me as being reliable, then it will not matter. I can only be as reliable to you as you think that I am. To be successful, therefore, we need to ensure that all of our employees – and our systems and processes that support them – are acting in ways that communicates that they are reliable.
An excellent way to achieve this is to consider each dimension of service quality – in this case Reliability – and define specifically how we will deliver it in a “tangible” way through every customer touch point. We can then assemble representatives from our company stakeholders – technicians, dispatch, sales, management, accounting, administration, and so on, and hold a brainstorming meeting to identify specific steps which can be taken within the context of communicating our reliability.
If you complete this exercise, you will be astounded by how simple the steps are. Be careful not to discount the exercise because the steps seem so obvious and common sense. In my experience in working with clients in this area, the old saying that “common sense is not necessarily that common” is true. Here are some things that can communicate our reliability as a firm.
- Being on time for appointments and calling ahead if going to be late – even if we are just going to be late by a few minutes
- Responding to customer calls in a timely manner
- Keeping commitments
- Providing requested information on time
- Completing reports on time
- Being accessible
- Managing customer expectations
Keep in mind that reliability must be in every customer touch point and it must be consistent across the organization and through time.
Once we have these actions identified, we need to clarify specifically what we mean. For example, what do we mean by “manage customer expectations” and how do we deliver upon it? What is a realistic response time to a customer call (2 minutes?, 2 hours?, 2 days?) and what defines “Being accessible”?
We then have to determine what we need to do and what resources are required to deliver on these consistently through every customer touch point throughout the organization. Do we currently have the skills? Will our current systems and processes support this? What changes will we need to make to our hiring criteria to attract the right people? And so on.
Next time, we will look more closely at the “A” in RATER and examine specific ways we can ensure our customers feel assured when dealing with us.
In the meantime, I’d love your feedback. Feel free to leave a link back to your own blog as well via the commentluv feature here on the site.
Until next time,
“Dependability is sincerity plus will power.”
—Roy L. Smith
 From the work of: Valarie A. Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, Leonard L. Berry. Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations. New York: The Free Press, 1990